The Ohio State women’s hockey team is set to start its season Tuesday with an exhibition game against an unlikely opponent: the South Korean Olympic Team.
Though the Buckeyes have played international teams from Canada in the past, Tuesday’s game will mark the first time Ohio State will face off against an Olympic opponent from outside North America.
Head coach Nadine Muzerall made the matchup possible by reconnecting with former teammate and South Korea’s head coach Sarah Murray. Knowing that South Korea was already touring the United States and playing other college teams, Muzerall worked with Murray to fit in a stop in Columbus.
“Hockey is a small world and we have to lean on each other and do what we think is best for our student-athletes and our players, so Sarah thought of it as a great opportunity for her team … to have another [Western Collegiate Hockey Association] opponent on the schedule to prepare them,” Muzerall said. “We’re their last stop before they fly home, so I really want to publicly appreciate South Korea and their team for doing the detour.”
It is common for Olympic teams to travel to the U.S. to face college teams during an Olympic year. The opportunity to play against an Olympic team gives collegiate athletes not only a chance to face off against stiff competition, but also leaves a lasting memory for those involved.
“[The game] is about the experience of playing an Olympic team,” Muzerall said. “Most [players] will never get that experience, so they should cherish that as it only happens every four years, so those that are here won’t get to do that again unless they’re playing for their respective country.”
Senior forward Julianna Iafallo recalled the Buckeyes’ locker room “went nuts” upon hearing the team would be playing South Korea. Although Ohio State is heading into the game with a competitive attitude, Iafallo said the team is most excited about the awareness the game will bring to women’s ice hockey.
“The main takeaways, I think, will definitely be that women’s ice hockey exposure, getting it to the national level and showing the Olympics that we’re getting them prepared, and just showing everybody else what it’s going to be like,” Iafallo said. “For us, it gets us prepared for the season and lets us know what we have to improve on for three days later when we play [Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute].”
The Buckeyes finished their 2016-2017 campaign with a 14-18-5 overall record and a 7-16-5 record in the WCHA. Tuesday’s game is set to start at 7:07 p.m. at the OSU Ice Rink.