The Ohio State women’s hockey team was in the middle of a crucial transition into the 2016-17 season. Looking to bounce back from last season’s abysmal 10-25-1 record after posting a record above .500 in 2014-15, OSU would have to do so without Dana Rasmussen, captain Alexa Ranahan and leading goal scorer Claudia Kepler, who all transferred to other schools.
Then it became more difficult.
On Aug. 18, just five days before classes began, coach Jenny Potter’s contract was terminated amid NCAA violations, leaving the Buckeyes without a head coach.
On Saturday, OSU announced former Minnesota assistant Nadine Muzerall as head coach of the Buckeyes with just 20 days before the first face-off. But without a coach, OSU was able to stay afloat due to a few members taking leadership.
“Us juniors are really trying to be leaders in practice and off the ice,” said junior defenseman Dani Sadek. “And younger girls coming in, we’re just being good role models to them. We’re just trying to stay positive through this whole thing.”
When OSU was searching for a new coach after Potter, the men’s hockey coaches assisted the team in running its captain’s practices and team activities for the few hours a week allotted by the NCAA in the offseason.
Sadek said that this experience of not having a coach just weeks before the season begins on Sept. 30 made the team mature and brought all of them together on and off the ice.
“It’s tough, but the school and everyone here, we’re all such a family,” Sadek said. “We’re like glue. We stick together.”
Potter — who replaced former coach Nate Handrahan who resigned followed sexual harassment allegations — brought in a different style to the Buckeyes in 2015-16. Sophomore forward Maddy Field said the problem with the offense wasn’t the fit, but the timeliness of its adoption.
“It was different than anyone else in the league and I think that for some people it was very hard to adapt to,” Field said. “I think that just as a whole it just didn’t work for everyone.”
New coach Nadine Muzerall comes in with instant credibility. She was a member of the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ coaching staff that saw five straight NCAA national championship appearances, and won four of them in her five seasons in Minneapolis.
Sophomore forward Jincy Dunne, who has been called the Jack Eichel of women’s college hockey, is finally ready to take the ice after suffering two concussions in less than six months. Dunne said that she’s hopes the changes in the program make OSU a conference contender.
“I don’t think we’re going to look at (last year) as embarrassing, but I think we’re going to look at it as an opportunity with some adversity that we went through in order to be the best team we can be,” Dunne said. “I know I’m hungry to get back at it and I know after not having the best season last year, everyone is ready to go.”