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Ohio State women’s ice hockey tries to make up ground vs. Gophers as conference playoffs approach

Photo courtesy of the Ohio State Athletic Department

With just four games left in the regular season, the Ohio State women’s ice hockey team is fighting for position in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings.

The team, tied for fourth place with the University of Minnesota-Duluth, is hoping to separate itself from UMD in order to gain home-ice advantage for the conference playoffs.

Coach Nate Handrahan called the next few weeks a “hotly contested race” to get the last home ice advantage spot.

Both teams have 38 points heading into this weekend’s conference matchups.

Senior forward Natalie Spooner said OSU’s next four games are big, adding, “We’re striving right now for home-ice advantage.”

It won’t be easy for the team to pick up points in the four upcoming games.

They host Minnesota this weekend at the OSU Ice Rink then travel to Wisconsin the following weekend to take on the Badgers.

The first time OSU and Minnesota met, OSU dropped both games, 4-1, on Dec. 10 and 11, 2011, respectively.

“I know we want to get some wins this weekend against Minnesota,” senior forward Laura McIntosh said.

Wisconsin and Minnesota occupy the No. 1 and 2 spots in the standings, respectively.

“The rest of the season, like I said, we have Minnesota and then Wisconsin, two highly ranked teams,” McIntosh said. “I think we’re hoping to be consistent both days, both weekends, and pull out some big wins to get home ice.”

In the WCHA playoffs, the top four teams receive home ice advantage.

First place plays eighth place, second plays seventh, third plays sixth, and fourth plays fifth.

Following the first round, the teams are again reseeded and advance to the WCHA Final Face-Off.

OSU will most likely be playing in the four versus five matchup in the first round; it’s just a matter of whether they get the higher seed.

“It’s up to the other games,” McIntosh said. “It looks like we’re going to play Duluth in playoffs, but it’s whether it’s home or away.”

UMD will host this year’s WCHA Final Face-Off.

Knocking UMD out of a tournament that they’re hosting is something McIntosh said she wouldn’t mind doing.

“You know, Duluth, we’ve had a big rivalry with my whole time here, I think it’d be definitely nice,” she said about defeating them in the first round.

Spooner and McIntosh said they are pleased with the season up to this point.

“I think the season has gone well so far, you know, we’ve accomplished a lot of the goals we set at the beginning of the season,” McIntosh said. “We’re being more consistent and that was big for us, so we’re doing pretty good.”

Those accomplishments include picking up big wins against rival programs like North Dakota and UMD, she said.

“I think we’ve had our ups and downs, we’ve lost a few games that we’d like to have won, but I think that we’ve definitely learned from the mistakes we’ve made and it’s made us a stronger team,” Spooner added.

Handrahan echoed the sentiments of his players and said he was pleased with a lot of the things the team has done.

“I think we’ve grown a lot over the course of the season,” he said. “It’s a special season with a special group of girls.”

Players and coach alike said they think the team’s best hockey is yet to be played.

“If everyone does their part and plays how they can, I mean, we should be really successful,” Spooner said.

The puck drops at 7:07 p.m. Friday and 4:07 p.m. Saturday when the team will take on the Golden Gophers.

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