This is the beginning. The foundation has been laid down and the building blocks are in place. Whatever success the Buckeyes achieve in the future will be based upon what happens this year. Ohio State’s newest varsity sport officially begins Oct. 2, 1999. At 7 p.m. that night, history will be made – the first puck will be dropped in the history of Ohio State women’s hockey.
And the nucleus is in place for a successful start.
“When we started here in December, the goal was to build a quality women’s program based on a good balance of academics and athletics,” head coach Jackie Barto said. “We’ve brought in a good group of athletes and hockey players.
“We want to build the foundation to an exceptional hockey program.” Barto continued. “But we realize that we will have to be patient. That foundation will begin by creating great team unity, and we feel like when it comes, the wins will come, although we won’t judge our inaugural season on wins and losses. The key words for us this season are growth and development.”
This will be a hockey team built around defense but with the potential to generate a solid offensive attack. The first recruiting class brought in two of the finest goaltenders in the nation and a solid group of defenders. When a group of forwards loaded with potential is added, the possibility of an exciting and successful first season is not out of reach.
“There is an incredible excitement in the air. It’s felt by our coaches, our staff, and our athletes. Everyone is headed in the right direction and realizes they are going to be a part of something very special.”
The Strength of the Squad
While most teams are satisfied with one starter and one solid backup, the Buckeyes will have two outstanding goaltenders to choose from – Melissa Glaser and April Stojak. Both are capable of starting and shutting down opponents. Stojak is a three-time participant in the prestigious Hockey Night in Boston and was named the Most Outstanding Goalie of the event in 1997 and ’98. Known for her poise under pressure and experience on many levels of women’s hockey, Stojak should be a valuable asset to the Buckeyes. Also a three-time participant at Hockey Night in Boston is Glaser, who won multiple awards at the event, including MVP (1998), the Senior Award for dedication and leadership (1999) and the Top Goalie Award (1996). Glaser, who always seems to be in the right place at the right time when in net, along with Stojak will combine to make OSU’s goaltending duo one of the strongest in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) women’s conference.
“Melissa and April provide us with a tremendous goalie duo,” Barto said. “They complement each other well and each possess an outstanding work ethic. Both will play a key role with this young team by providing a solid backbone to the defense.”
A goalie is only as good as the defense in front of it, and the group of defensemen this year looks strong. A solid group of blueliners will help make life on both goalies much easier and have the potential to chip in some offensive production as well. Two defenders who should make significant contributions are Katie Frohreich and Emily Hudak. The two compliment each other well – Frohreich brings aggressiveness to the ice while Hudak has excellent vision and good size. Both should be major contributors defensively to OSU this year, as should Kristen Ankersen and Lindsey Steblen. Very similar in that they can both be utilized at defense or forward, Ankersen combines excellent skating ability with an aggressive style of play while Steblen has good puck handling skills and the ability to make good decisions on the ice.
Sophomore Kylee Reade will provide a veteran voice to the defensive unit. A lacrosse player for OSU last year, Reade has a background in ice hockey. Her experience and determination should serve the team well. Reade, along with fellow defensemen Christine Patno, Kathy Eckhardt, Carrie Gill and Jennifer Bradbury have the ability to contribute to the Buckeye lineup immediately.
“We have a very good core of defenseman,” Barto said. “Our solid defense will give us an opportunity to be competitive each game.”
Leading the Buckeye offense will be junior forward Corinne Rosen, a transfer from Providence College. Corinne will provide a scoring punch with her aggressive play and tremendous work ethic. Her prior collegiate experience will be a key to the young team.
Two products of the Minnesota girls system are Andrea Carlson and Lindsey Ogren. Known for her ability to create turnovers, Carlson combines tremendous skating ability with good quickness, skills that will make her a force on the forecheck. A finalist for Minnesota’s Ms. Hockey in 1999, Ogren brings a strong hockey sense and a tremendous work ethic.
Shana Frost and Melissa Pirie, a talented duo from Ontario, have the potential to provide a threat offensively. Frost will utilize her puck handling skills and speed to generate scoring opportunities while Pirie brings size, aggressiveness and a desire to crash the net and make things happen. Rounding out the forwards are Jayne Bucksa, Brooke Sharrard, Melissa Tower, Kenzie Stensland, Sarah Van Riper and Lori Zielinski.
“We’ve got good athletes at the forward position,” Barto said. “I think this is a group that can be creative and score goals for us. They are all from different backgrounds and different programs. I love the potential we have at the forward position.”
A League of its Own
For the last five years, the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) was the lone conference in the nation for women’s hockey teams. With the development of the WCHA, that has all changed. Teams like Minnesota, Minnesota State-Mankato and St. Cloud State, who have had women’s hockey teams at least one year, now have a conference to call their own. Joining them will be four teams that will be in their first year of women’s hockey – Bemidji State, Wisconsin, Minnesota-Duluth and Ohio State.
But just because the Buckeyes are a member of a new league playing a number of teams in their first year of competition, that in no way means the schedule is easy. Eight of Ohio State’s 10 non-conference games are against teams from the vaunted ECAC, a conference that has sponsored a women’s championship since the 1983-84 season.
“I tried to schedule our non-conference games against the best teams in the nation,” Barto said. “Our commitment here at OSU is to put our athletes in the most competitive position possible. We want to recruit the top athletes in the country and I want to expose them to the best competition.”
And the best competition is what they will be getting. A home series against Northeastern as well as road trips to play Yale, Princeton and New Hampshire dot the schedule. Make no doubt, these young Buckeyes will be tested.
“We are playing teams like Northeastern and New Hampshire that will contend for the national title this year and have won titles in the past,” Barto said. “In doing this, I think we are giving our players good competition so down the road, we can compete for a national championship.”