Ohio State junior forwards Emma Maltais (17) and Liz Schepers (21) celebrate after taking the lead and winning goal during the third period of the game against Minnesota Oct. 25. Ohio State won 4-3. Credit: John Huether | For The Lantern

Having passion for his or her game can take an athlete’s abilities to the next level. Having teammates and a head coach who exhibit confidence in those abilities can elevate a competitor to a higher level of production.

Already equalling her 2018-19 points total in the first half of this season, Ohio State women’s hockey junior forward and goals leader Liz Schepers can attest to that. 

Schepers hails from Minnesota, a known hockey hub. Thirty-eight current players in the NHL come from Minnesota, and eight Buckeyes on the active roster are from the Gopher state. Even head coach Nadine Muzerall’s alma mater is Minnesota.

The forward has been involved with hockey since she was 5 years old. Growing up, Schepers found a way to immerse herself in the game however she could.

“My family is a big hockey family,” Schepers said. “I followed a lot of teams, played every weekend. I follow hockey a lot still. I think I am a fan of it as much as I am a player.”

Schepers emphasized her love for the sport and desire to constantly improve. One way in which she accomplishes this is by studying the game. 

“I think you can learn a lot from watching, especially at those high levels. I think that actually helped me a lot grow into college hockey — being a student of it.”

A strong bond with her teammates and love for competition has driven Schepers to develop a penchant for performing under pressure. She is tied for first in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association with four game-winning goals.

“We have been in some late games where things are tight,” Schepers said. “We have been joking about how we like the flare for the dramatics as a team with the comebacks. It could be anybody, really, some nice plays, but being on the ice in those situations is obviously a big part of it.”

Schepers had a four-game goal streak that began Oct. 25 against Minnesota and spanned three weekends. Although the streak was snapped this past weekend against Minnesota-Duluth, she still found a way to contribute to the win. Schepers assisted junior forward Emma Maltais on a goal that padded a 3-1 Ohio State lead in the first game of the weekend.

“As long as we are winning, I’m happy,” Schepers said. “I just want to be a responsible, reliable player for the team, whether I am putting the puck in the net or not. I want them to be confident in me on the ice.”

Schepers’ teammates have a reason to be confident in her; she has appeared in every game of her collegiate career — a total of 88 games. 

Including her game-winners, Schepers has scored nine goals and 15 points in 14 games. She had 15 points in 35 games this past season and is already two goals ahead of her previous career high.

Having that dependability leads to more reps on the ice in both game situations and practice time, further improving her play.

“One of the best things about Liz is that she is consistent,” Maltais said. “She’s consistently good, and I saw that in previous years, and I see it this year too. She is just taking it one step to the next level this year, and I am really proud of her.”

Combine the amount of time she spends studying the game with those reps, and Schepers’ dedication has begun to set her apart from the competition.

“Liz is sneaky in the right areas,” Maltais said. “She has got an unbelievable shot, and whenever she has those opportunities in clutch moments, she is a very clutch player. She can put it in the back of the net.”

Muzerall said she noticed Schepers’ ability to put the puck in the net when she recruited her. 

“We got her, and man, what a great deal we got. She has turned out to be phenomenal,” Muzerall said. “Smart defensively doesn’t get beat often, just passionate. This kid can score. She’s got a good knack for the net, which, in women’s hockey, is not very common.”

Ohio State already had a dynamic scoring duo in Maltais and junior forward Tatum Skaggs, who combined for 71 goals in the past two seasons. Outpacing them both this year, Schepers’ emergence has created a potent triumvirate up front for the No. 7 Buckeyes, who boast the seventh-most goals in the nation.

Schepers and the Buckeyes travel to Colgate Friday and Saturday for a two-game series.