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OSU women’s ice hockey looks to get back on track vs. Minnesota State

OSU then-junior defenseman Cara Zubko (2) passes the puck during a game against Minnesota on Nov. 15 at the OSU Ice Rink. OSU lost, 5-3. Credit: Ed Momot / For The Lantern

OSU then-junior defenseman Cara Zubko (2) passes the puck during a game against Minnesota on Nov. 15 at the OSU Ice Rink. OSU lost, 5-3. Credit: Ed Momot / For The Lantern

From the Schottenstein Center, its temporary home rink for the weekend where it practiced in advance of its weekend series against Minnesota State, the Ohio State women’s ice hockey team is confident that it can get back on track after dropping four straight contests.

Despite being outscored 33-4 during its losing streak, the team is remains sure that it is headed in the right direction.

“We continue to work to improve in areas that we want to get better, but also emphasizing all the things that went well,” coach Jenny Potter said. “Sometimes people look at the box score and don’t see what really happened.”

Getting better

Potter stressed trusting the developmental process her team is on all season as an indicator of their success, and that doesn’t always mean to look at the final score, even though she still expects to win games.

“Saturday was a challenge for our team, but I think the way I’m working them, they’re tired, that’s not an excuse, they’ve got to find a way to compete and not give up,” Potter said.

The Minnesota State team coming to Columbus this weekend presents something of a different challenge. Under first-year coach John Harrington, the Mavericks are 2-4, losers of three straight. But OSU does not want to stop to catch its breath after four straight losses.

“We don’t know where we stand against these teams, and we want to look at every game as if we’re playing against a No. 1 team no matter who it is,” junior forward Claudia Kepler said.

Kepler, who scored twice against Minnesota last weekend, is also adamant that the squad has only made positive strides in recent weeks.

“We’re buying into the process. We understand that in order to get stronger we have to get weaker and we’re breaking ourselves down, but now we’re starting to build ourselves up,” Kepler said.

If the Buckeyes want to find where they stand in comparison to their conference opponents, this weekend represents as good as starting point as any.  The first order of business is solving the problem of the middle frame. Against Minnesota, OSU allowed 10 second-period goals.

“I think Saturday was a little deflating after the second period. I thought they were right in that game for sure, but again they’re feeling their legs a little more, and Saturday that second period was a challenge, and you know what, with any challenge you’re going to find your character and figure out what you want to be,” Potter said.

Overcoming fatigue

Potter said she believes her skaters are the most fatigued they will be at any point this season right now, but that does not stand as an excuse not playing well for an entire game or weekend.

“Staying mentally focused for three periods,” Potter said. “The conditioning part, and what I’m doing with them, right now they’re in the beaten-down stage. So, every week after this they’re going to continually get better and get into better shape.”

Potter’s skaters are not looking for additional rest before another potentially exhausting series. To the contrary, they are working even harder in search of wins.

“We’ve set aside time before practice this week to get out there early to work on our shots and stickhandling,” senior defender Cara Zubko said. “It’s the little things that are going to make a big difference.”

OSU believes that attention to detail will translate into success starting this weekend.

Kepler described her goal last Friday as “playing until the end,” and that more of that type of effort is necessary for her squad to be successful.

“It would build our confidence to get some of those grinder, put-in goals early,” Kepler said.  “Then we’ll go from there.”

Potter, who said she believes that the scores of games are not representative of her team’s effort, echoed that sentiment.

“I think that they came out there and played an unbelievable first game, they gave it everything they had,” Potter said. “I told them, ‘you guys are a good enough team, you’re good enough to compete, if you want a couple of wins you have to go get them.’”

OSU is set to drop the puck against Minnesota State at the Schottenstein Center at 6:07 p.m. on Friday and 1:07 p.m. on Saturday.

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