The defensive-minded Ohio State women’s hockey team is preparing for an attacking style of play from No. 8 Minnesota Duluth in a weekend series.
OSU coach Nate Handrahan said the two teams have different approaches to the game and that’s what makes the matchup interesting.
“I see them as a team that’s going to get up the ice and they are going to try and throw anything in the kitchen sink at you offensively,” Handrahan said. “I think that our base of our game is on playing solid, consistent defense to allow our offense to create. So I think its ying and yang a little bit as far as programs.”
Sophomore forward Claudia Kepler said she agrees with her coach that the teams are different. She said Minnesota Duluth might have the skill, but OSU has the speed.
“We have a lot of speed in our front end as well as our defense, something that will benefit us in the game,” Kepler said.
In the past three seasons, OSU (8-7-1, 5-6-1) has faced Minnesota Duluth (11-5-2, 6-5-1) in Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff games.
The last time the Buckeyes met the Bulldogs was in the first round of WCHA playoffs at the end of last season. OSU lost the series after dropping two of three games.
“It’s been a rivalry that we’ve had over the years because we see them so much in playoffs,” Handrahan said. “They play a very up-tempo game, a five-player game and we have to be alert and on our toes.”
For this weekend against Minnesota Duluth, Handrahan said he has worked a lot with his lines to find which combination of players can make an impact on the ice.
“You need three players that play well, and you need three players that play well together. If we can have three lines of scoring, that makes us difficult for anybody to play against,” he said.
Senior forward Kayla Sullivan said her team has prepared to play the Bulldogs a little differently than they normally prepare to play a team.
“We’ve done a lot more video than normal, mainly because they like to use a lot of set plays,” Sullivan said. “We also have a good competition going on between us. They like to play a little risky. These are usually chippy but fun games. They bring out the best in both teams.”
In the Buckeyes’ most recent game against Robert Morris, Sullivan led her team scoring two goals and having one assist against the Eagles. Sullivan looks to carry that momentum onto the ice for the series this weekend.
“Last game I got on the scoreboard a little more than I normally do. I had a fun game,” Sullivan said. “I just want to take that loose energy and bring that and hopefully I can continue that momentum.”
Handrahan said he considers Sullivan and the rest of his seniors to be leaders on the team.
“You can only go as far as your seniors allow you to go. That doesn’t mean every senior is playing a premier role but every role is premier,” Handrahan said. “They are doing a great job of keeping the team in the right frame of mind to make sure we are prepared for every game.”
The Buckeyes have nearly reached the halfway point in their season and Handrahan said he’s happy with where his team is.
“I think we’ve progressed. We are playing a pretty good style from a five-on-five perspective,” Handrahan said. “Starting to see lines solidify a little bit creating chemistry with one another and I think that has presented itself in scoring situations as well.”
As far as the teams’ record this season, Kepler said there are a few games she would like back from earlier this season.
“I know we had a few games in the past we wish we would’ve won but we’ve learned from them,” Kepler said. “Going into next semester I think we will have more confidence and going in knowing that any team can win.”
The Buckeyes are set to take to the OSU Ice Rink against the Bulldogs on Friday and Saturday. The faceoff is scheduled for 6:07 p.m. for both games.