When the Ohio State women’s ice hockey team dropped the puck to open its season on Friday, it did so with several new faces but perhaps none more significant than its four-time Olympian head coach.
Jenny Potter was named the third head coach in program history less than one month after the resignation of Nate Handrahan, who coached the team for four seasons before stepping down on March 11.
“Obviously, you think about the long history of athletic tradition, and I am excited to be a part of trying to win here,” Potter said.
Potter, 36, played collegiate hockey at Minnesota-Duluth and was most recently the head coach at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, for two seasons. While there, the Bantams won the 2015 New England Small College Athletic Conference championship, their first in program history.
Now she is at a much larger university, albeit with a less storied hockey program, in OSU.
However, Potter is looking forward to instilling her brand of hockey right away in the team’s 16th season.
“I know there are expectations, and I’m not sure that we’re going to be the most talented team. But we will be the hardest-working team on the ice, and I’m expecting us to compete every whistle,” Potter said.
Potter is one of the most decorated coaches to ever be hired by OSU, winning six gold medals in international competition and leading the United States in scoring at the 1999 International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship. However, she said coaching after retiring from play does not bother her.
“I always knew I was going to stay in hockey and coach in hockey when I was playing,” Potter said. “I’ve spent my whole life in it.”
The stability that comes with a hockey life is important for a team that experienced turnover in more areas than just its coaching staff. In addition to Handrahan’s resignation, the team graduated all three of its captains last spring and welcomed five freshmen to the 2015-16 squad.
“We’re looking for some of these young women to step up, but I know that they can, and I think we can expect to see that right away,” Potter said.
Perhaps the program already has. In the first weekend with Potter at the helm, the team won its first two games against Lindenwood, scoring a combined eight goals, including five in the first game and two from senior forward Kendall Curtis. Last season, the team scored more than four goals in just three games.
Potter said she hopes the team’s play so far this year is out of respect for the coaching staff, not out of reverence.
“I hope I can teach these young women,” Potter said. “I think we’re all interested in just building a winning tradition here.”
The building will continue this weekend when the Scarlet and Gray travels to Madison, Wisconsin, to face the Badgers in its Western Collegiate Hockey Association opener. Puck drop is set for 3:07 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.