Oct. 2, 2002
The Ohio State Buckeyes are on the road to a successful season under the direction of fourth-year head coach Jackie Barto. The roster has experienced players at every position, as the 18 letterwinners returning include nine forwards, seven defenders and two goaltenders. Barto also recruited an impressive freshman class of three players for this season. Eight of the letterwinners are seniors who have been at Ohio State since the beginning of the women’s ice hockey program four years ago. They have seen the team develop and compete successfully at the national level.
“I feel it is important for us to have a quick start to our season and gel as a team both on and off the ice,” Barto said. “A big key for us will be executing our systems and playing hard for each other on the ice.
“I would like to see our team make some strong improvements from the start of our year to the end and get better as a team every time we take the ice,” Barto said. “Also, I would like to see our team focus on the basics of our game and be able to be very strong fundamentally. I believe if we can do the fundamentals and if we are dedicated to getting better every time we take the ice we will be a team to be reckoned with.”
The Inaugural Class
The nine returning seniors bring a lot to the hockey program this season. They have seen the program grow and mature from the beginning of its inaugural season in 1999-00.
“The seniors bring an intangible element to our team this year,” Barto said. “They now have the experience and knowledge. I really want to see them step up and be strong leaders of our team. They will be our programs first graduating senior class.
“I want them to leave Ohio State knowing they are going to forever be an important part of our program,” Barto said. “What they did here in their four years will be something that will be here forever. They will always be a part of our program in the present and in the future.” Between the Pipes
“Goaltending is going to be a key in the success of our team this year,” Barto said. “We are experienced and we have very good talent and athleticism. The goaltenders have potential to create a very competitive situation where they are going to be able to push each other day in and day out.”
Ohio State returns three strong goaltenders this season: senior April Stojak, junior Melissa Glaser and redshirt freshman Natalie Lamm.
Stojak played in 15 games, including 11 starts, and compiled a season-high 34 stops in 3-2 overtime loss to Minnesota-Duluth (Jan. 26) in the 2001 season. She finished the season with a 3-7-1 record and 244 saves.
“April is determined to have a strong senior year and work hard. She has worked hard at improving her game and is a confident goaltender.”
Glaser earned the starting spot between the pipes after the first St. Cloud series, starting 26 games. She recorded a 15-8-3 (.635) mark, .903 save percentage and five shutouts.
“Glaser is explosive,” Barto said. “She takes very good control of the defensive zone and communicates well.”
Lamm is coming off a redshirt year, in which she developed her skill, without having the pressures of playing immediately.
“Natalie has the potential to be a very good goaltender,” Barto said. “She has the skills and knowledge, she needs to bring that potential together.
“It is important that April, Melissa and Natalie come together early, push each other during practice and be working together for each other,” Barto said.
On the Blue Line
The Buckeyes commitment to defense and their work ethic is going to show this season.
Returnees include seniors Emily Hudak, Lindsey Steblen, Christine Patno, Katie Frohreich, junior Emma Laaksonen, sophomores Jaclyn Haines, Monica Kolb and newcomers Katelyn Sershen.
“We are going to be very experienced defensively this season,” Barto said. “As a team we have become very committed to the defensive side of the puck. Our defensemen will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge and will play an integral part of our success this season.”
Laaksonen was named to the 2002 All-WCHA Second Team and was a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. She finished eighth in scoring (21 points) among WCHA defensemen despite seeing action in only 25 games while she competed at the 2002 Winter Olympics for Finland.
“Emma is our most offensive minded defenseman.” Barto said. “She has worked hard to improve her game offensively. As an assistant captain, she will become a leader to the whole team.
“Emily is an outstanding defenseman and has a good presence on the ice,” Barto said. “She has had a strong career and is coming off a solid junior year in which she finished second on the team with 28 points and led the team with 22 assists.”
Steblen is coming off her best season as a junior and looks to build upon her results. She played in all 37 games, set a career high for assists in a season (seven) and finished with eight points on the year.
Frohreich is a versatile player who will help the team both on the blue line and as a center.
Patno was voted the team’s Most Improved Player last season, playing in 36 games and recording a career-best three assists.
“Our defense plays with a lot of intensity and they understand the importance of the defensive side of the puck,” Barto said. “A key to our team will be our defensive zone and being very stingy, intense and competitive.”
The Buckeye Attack
Top returning forwards to the Buckeye offense include juniors Heather Farrell and Jeanne Chapple and sophomores Jeni Creary and Jennifer Desson. Other Buckeyes returning to the offense include seniors Katie Frohreich, Shana Frost, Carrie Gill and Lindsey Ogren, juniors Melissa Pirie and Erin O’Grady and sophomore Meaghan Mulvaney. Jana Harrigan and Crystal Sayther are the newcomers to the OSU offense this season.
“I am excited about the potential of our forwards this year,” Barto said. “We combine good size, quickness, aggressiveness and the ability to create offense. Essential to our offense will be the forwards playing the whole ice and creating some good offensive opportunities for us. Our forwards are aggressive and we want to capitalize on our opponents mistakes.”
Last season, Creary was named WCHA Rookie of the Year and to the 2002 All-WCHA First Team and was a finalist for the Patty Kazamaier Memorial Award. She led the team with 26 goals, 44 points and 164 shots.
“Jeni is coming off an outstanding rookie year,” Barto said. “She is a threat with the puck. She goes to the net hard and is a goal scorer.”
Desson finished second on the team with 13 goals and third with 24 points.
“Jennifer moves the puck well and is creative,” Barto said. “She learned the physical side of the game last season, which will help her going into her sophomore year.”
Farrell tallied 12 goals and 11 assists for 23 points in 2002.
“Heather is a powerful forward,” Barto said. She has a strong shot and the capabilities to score for us this season.”
“Our forwards combine experience, youth, energy and talent,” Barto said. “This combination will be key to our success.”
The Road to Duluth
The Buckeyes play every WCHA team four times during the season, a two-game trip on the road and a two-game series at home. OSU will be playing two of the 2002 NCAA Frozen Four teams, Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth.
“The WCHA has come so far in three years and is going to be even better than last year,” Barto said. “It is the most competitive women’s hockey leagues in the country. Which means we have to be very prepared and focused for every league game. But, it is going to make us the best team we can be in the long run.”
The non-league games also are important and the opponents are strong. OSU takes on Providence, Connecticut and Mercyhurst at home this season. Away opponents include Dartmouth, St. Lawrence, who both ranked in the Top 10 last year, and Princeton.
Ohio State looks to defend the Ohio Cup trophy Jan. 26 in Findlay after defeating Findlay the past two years.
“I think our schedule is a step up from last year,” Barto said. “It is going to be a challenge for us and will make us a better team. Every game we go into this season we will need to be extremely competitive.
The 2002 WCHA Championship will be held March 6-8 in Engelstad Arena at the University of North Dakota. The Buckeyes goal is to make it to the 2002 NCAA Frozen Four March 21 and 23 in Duluth, Minn.
“The excitement going into this season is going to be huge,” Barto said. “We want our fourth year to be very successful. Improving the team requires learning from the past, moving forward and having an enjoyable season.”