The Ohio State women’s ice hockey team split its series at the Windjammer Classic in Vermont over the weekend to conclude out-of-conference play.
OSU defeated Vermont 5-2 on Friday and fell to Boston University 5-3 on Saturday. After the split, the Buckeyes (6-10-0) have one series remaining in 2015 before they resume play on Jan. 2.
“It was a good experience for our kids, it was a little bit out of excitement playing out of conference opponents in a new environment and new building,” assistant coach Carson Duggan said. “But it was a lot of fun to coach in today.”
On Friday, OSU fell behind early with Vermont’s sophomore defender Taylor Willard‘s third goal of the season, but OSU junior forward Katie Matheny’s second and third goals of the season powered the Buckeyes past the Catamounts in the first game of the inaugural tournament.
The next day, OSU again fell behind when Boston senior forward Kayla Tutino scored on the power play at 3:58 into the game. The Terriers would score again on a buzzer beater at the end of the first, which was reviewed to determine if the puck crossed the line before time expired.
“That’s why you don’t stop playing,” Duggan said. “It’s a little frustrating when you think the video says something different, but that’s why you play.”
Despite dropping the second game of the invitational, the team held its collective head high after an emotional weekend.
“We went in there knowing we play in the best conference out of the three in the NCAA, and we wanted to show that,” senior forward Julia McKinnon said.
McKinnon, who played with fellow forwards freshman Maddy Field and sophomore Lauren Spring this weekend after playing 12 games on the blue line for the first time in her life, feels this weekend was a positive step.
“Just getting our lines together and making sure that we communicate better has been huge,” McKinnon said.
McKinnon, who recorded one of the first shots on goal for OSU on Saturday, said she feels the team is cycling from defense to offense with greater efficiency than it was early in the season.
“Everyone is buying into the system we’ve put in place here,” McKinnon said. “And getting back on back-checking is so important, so it’s good to have some success at it.”
Losers of five of six entering the weekend, the team was in agreement that the weekend away from physical conference opponents was good to assess its performance thus far.
“It’s a little different playing the teams out of conference,” senior forward Kendall Curtis said. “There are some different things you see and we were switching things up today.”
Curtis, along with the coaching staff, was happier with the team’s effort despite trailing early both games.
“They left it all out there,” Duggan said. “They knew they weren’t going to get to play again for another two weeks or so, so they played with reckless abandon. I think they’ve come along way.
“I told them after the game today I thought they played with a lot of grittiness. It was a lot of fun to be a part of and watch.”
Despite scoring eight goals and splitting its series, OSU did not find its unfamiliar opponents any easier than its conference ones.
“I didn’t notice a difference,” Curtis said. “I think we still really try to focus on our game, and these teams this weekend showed us something different to work on, but it didn’t really challenge us any differently than a team in our league.”
With two goals on Saturday, Matheny has tied her career-high of three, set last year. She has also established a new career-high in points with six so far in 2015-16.
With two goals this weekend, Curtis leads with team with nine. She has eclipsed her previous career-high of eight in 2013-14.
The team will return to Columbus for practice on Monday and will have its second off-week of the season. The Buckeyes are then scheduled to return to the Ice Rink for their final series of 2015 against Minnesota-Duluth on Dec. 11 and 12. Puck is scheduled to drop at 7:07 p.m. and 4:07 p.m., respectively.