Heading into its final away series of the regular season, the Ohio State women’s ice hockey team (9-20-1, 5-18-1) is focusing on taking advantage of scoring chances as it prepares to take on Bemidji State University (18-9-3, 13-9-2) this weekend.
Assistant coach Joey Olson said the team believes it had a solid weekend of play last weekend, despite being swept by second-ranked Wisconsin in two games.
“Wisconsin was a great series. We played very well defensively,” Olson said. “We created scoring opportunities, but we didn’t capitalize on those opportunities, so I think going forward one of the main focuses this weekend will be to continue to generate those scoring chances but to capitalize and finish on them.”
The Buckeyes should be expecting another strong defensive team, similarly to Wisconsin, in their matchup against Bemidji State.
“The Wisconsin goaltender did a very nice job against us,” Olson said. “Bemidji has a good defensive core, as well as a very strong goaltender. So we’ll just have to focus that much more to put the puck in the back of the net.”
Intensity in the defensive zone
At the beginning of this season, the Buckeyes had many games where their opponent’s offense dominated them. The team has made it a focus to improve its defense, which junior defenseman Alexa Ranahan believes will be a key this weekend.
“We were pretty strong at that last weekend, and sometimes we can get complacent in our D-zone,” Ranahan said. “So that’s a big focus, and I know coach is definitely working on that.”
The Buckeyes are drawing confidence from last weekend’s Wisconsin series, although they were still swept, because the margin of loss was drastically different from an earlier matchup. In October, the combined score was 15-0 in favor of the Badgers. Last weekend, it was 4-1.
“Our defensive zone needed the most work, and we’ve definitely cleaned up that area,” Olson said. “The girls have really bought into that system and started to execute what we needed to see, as you can kind of see in the result from the Wisconsin series.”
Currently the Buckeyes have allowed the most goals per game in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. This is mostly due to lopsided scores at the beginning of the season against Wisconsin and Minnesota.
“I think our D-zone’s gotten a lot better,” Ranahan said. “We’ve been pretty strong the last couple of weekends, but a big thing is putting the puck in the net, and our forwards and our D have definitely bore down on doing that, and I think we need to continue that in order to win more games.”
Playing a complete game
First-year coach Jenny Potter has worked throughout the season to increase her team’s focus throughout the whole game, and the players believe that is another reason their play has improved deeper into the season.
“I think last weekend we did a really good job of playing a full 60 minutes,” Ranahan. “We didn’t quit. We were very intense and we believed in ourselves more than other weekends I think, and that definitely needs to carry over into Bemidji.”
Ranahan also said she thinks the team has more confidence because it is ready to skate with a team for an entire game.
“We do a ton of conditioning too, and it really shows in the third period when we’re playing against teams that normally are really good, and we’re outskating them the whole game,” Ranahan said.
Olson said he believes the team needs to focus on the game holistically and have cohesion between the offense and defense.
“The practices overall have just been mainly geared toward making sure that we’re prepared in all three areas of the game as far as our offensive zone, neutral zone and defensive zone,” Olson said. “Making sure we’re sharp in all three areas to make sure we have a complete game come Friday and Saturday.”
The puck is scheduled to drop on Friday at 7:07 p.m. and Saturday at 4:07 p.m. in Bemidji, Minnesota. After the Beavers, the Buckeyes are set to wrap up their regular season at home with two games against North Dakota on Feb. 19 and 20.