Last year, Ohio State won games against all six of their WCHA opponents. However, they also lost to five conference foes. They took at least one point and lost at least one point against all six league opponents in 2000-01.
The Buckeyes have also finished fourth in the WCHA in each of the last three seasons. Head coach Jackie Barto knows one way in which her team can improve on that finish.
“We have to be more consistent,” she said. “Day-to-day, practice-to-practice, Friday-to-Saturday, we have to play a better team game.”
To do that, hard work will have to be the team’s trademark.
“We want to be the hardest working team on the ice every game we play,” Barto said. “We play a lot of pressure, defensively, on our forecheck and penalty kill. We need to work hard and capitalize on turnovers.”
Goaltending should be one of the team’s strengths, despite having lost Melissa Glaser to a knee injury suffered while playing with the U.S. National U-22 Team. The injury means the Buckeyes will be without Glaser’s services for the second time in three seasons but senior April Stojak and red-shirt freshman Natalie Lamme are expected to pick up the slack.
Stojak, who filled in as the team’s number-one goalie two seasons ago, sports a career goals against average of 2.82. Lamme brings size to the position and Barto feels her presence and puck-control made her a quality goalie. The two will battle for the number-one job.
“I think the competition will be healthy for them and the team,” Barto said. “We’re confident they can both do the job and they’ll push each other to be better.”
In front of those two will be a defense that features seven returning players, including four seniors. Emily Hudak, the WCHA’s second-leading scorer on defense with 28 points, Christine Patno, Lindsey Steblen and Katie Frohreich, the latter of whom will also log time at forward, have anchored OSU’s blue line the last three seasons. Junior Emma Laaksonen, a second-team All-WCHA pick last season, gives the Buckeyes five experienced and reliable defensemen.
Sophomore Jeni Creary stepped into the Ohio State lineup as a rookie last season and promptly earned first-team All-WCHA honors after finishing third in the league with 44 points. Classmate Jennifer Desson added 24 points as a rookie, including a team-high six game-winning goals. Junior Heather Farrell has 23 points, giving the Buckeyes three underclassmen as their top-scoring forwards.
That doesn’t mean OSU is without experience up front. Senior co-captain Lindsey Ogren is the team leader in career games. Fellow senior Shana Frost scored 23 points last season and was second on the team with six power-play goals.
“I think we’re deeper this year,” Barto said of her group of forwards. “We relied on only a couple of people in the past. This year we’ll play four lines more and, hopefully, we can spread our scoring out among two or three lines.”
With the depth of their returning players, the Buckeyes have a small but solid freshman class, featuring Lamme, along with forwards Crystal Sather, Jana Harrigan and defenseman Katie Sershen.
“I’m very pleased with our freshman class,” Barto said. “They have a great work ethic and will to learn.
“The key for us will be to keep things simple and move the puck well. We expect that we have to work hard and minimize the number of mistakes we make to be successful.”
Ohio State’s regular season gets underway Oct. 11-12 when the Buckeyes kickoff the WCHA’s schedule with a pair of games at Minnesota State.