After dropping both games against the Wisconsin Badgers last weekend, the Ohio State women’s ice hockey team opens its home schedule on Friday against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, winners of last season’s NCAA tournament.
The Buckeyes lost both games against Wisconsin by a combined score of 15-0, but spent the following week in practice trying not to dwell on the past.
“I think what’s key is to not look back on what’s happened, but to look forward,” senior forward Julia McKinnon said. “Obviously, every team says that at the beginning of the year, but I think we need to focus on D-zone for us most importantly, blocking the shots, looking to get man-on-man.”
The difficulty for OSU as it welcomes Minnesota and its high-powered offense is continuing to balance preparing for opponents with the developmental aspects of hockey.
“Yes, I can implement systems where the score might have been a little bit closer, but I want our team to get better at being hockey players and knowing what our weaknesses are and what our strengths are,“ OSU coach Jenny Potter said.
Eight Golden Gophers are ranked in the top 30 scorers in the country, and Potter spent much of this week preparing her squad for another up-tempo competitor.
“We’ve been playing to high speeds in practice, not just stepping in and expecting to be skating that fast, knowing that that team’s coming in,” senior defender Cara Zubko said.
Zubko said she believes that at this stage of the season, it was good for both OSU’s newcomers and veterans to receive the lessons that come with back-to-back blowouts on the road.
“I think no one goes into the first weekend of the year expecting losses like that. But I think it was a wake-up call in a good sense that, just because we know we have lots of work to do,” Zubko said.
Zubko was not the only member of the program looking to take positives away from its series against Wisconsin, and the team is eager to get right back on the ice tonight against another tough conference opponent.
“I think it’s a lesson in life as far as how much work you put in, or lack thereof,” Potter said. “For us as a group, seeing where we are and where we want to go, with Wisconsin being a great team, Frozen Four team last year, ranked No. 2 right now, this team wants to be in those positions, so it’s a stepping stone.”
Against Minnesota, OSU will look to compete with one of the best, if not the best, program in the nation. The Golden Gophers set an NCAA record with eight goals in a single period en route to an 11-0 victory over St. Cloud State last Saturday, and are led by freshman forward Sarah Potomak, who ranks fourth in the nation in scoring.
But for a glass-half-full team like the Buckeyes, the opportunity to erase memories of last week’s sweep by facing off against another elite team is one not to pass up.
“We know we have lots of work to do,” Zubko said. “We can’t look back on that, there’s a lot of hockey and a big season in front of us and we’ll be ready for this weekend.”
The Buckeyes drop the puck in Game 1 against Minnesota at 6:07 p.m. on Friday and at 2:07 p.m. on Saturday in Game 2.