WOMEN'S HOCKEY: UND enters final weekend of regular season at Ohio State
The Olympic Games officially ended on Thursday afternoon for women’s hockey.
And as much as the UND women’s hockey team has enjoyed watching its players compete at the highest level, there are probably some sighs of relief.
UND enters the final weekend of the regular season at Ohio State with a 17-9-4 overall record. The team started the season 15-5-2, but has gone 2-4-2 since Michelle Karvinen and Susanna Tapani departed for the 2014 Sochi Games.
Without defenseman Tanja Eisenschmid, the team is 1-4-1.
The players are starting their journey back to the United States. And while they are unlikely to play this weekend against the Buckeyes, UND believes it will be back at full strength for next weekend’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs.
“We just need to make sure they are rested, physically and mentally,” UND coach Brian Idalski said. “As a staff, we are giddy. We really haven’t had the full team together this season if you consider that Leah Jensen was hurt. We wish we had a couple more weeks to prepare, but we know we can be a really, really good hockey team when we’re full and whole. In fact, the last few weeks we’ve been a good hockey team. Maturity-wise, we just didn’t handle some situations very well.
“The losses hurt a lot last week. But I think, longterm, going into the playoffs, kids understand that was almost catastrophic. That’s how it feels when your season ends if you don’t make a play or execute.”
Although UND fell to No. 9 in the Pairwise Rankings after losing a pair of games last weekend against Minnesota State-Mankato, it could still get back in the mix if it sweeps the Buckeyes.
“Going to Ohio is always a hard place to play,” UND forward Meghan Dufault said. “It’s their barn. We’ve got to treat it like we’re playing Minnesota. We’ve got to battle hard and close out games. We need to go to playoffs feeling good about how we’ve been playing.
“Since playoffs rae coming, everyone knows it’s do or die now. Everyone is pretty pumped up now. We’re going to have to work our hardest.”
Idalski said his non-Olympians have received some valuable experience over the last month that should make the team better once the playoffs arrive.
“When you sit back and look at what our group was comprised of, that’s the first real bit of adversity they’ve faced as a club,” Idalski said. “That’s only going to make them better for the playoff stretch. We know we have to score gritty, tough goals. It’s not going to come easy. That was their first taste of that. People are going to be draped on you. Scoring in the playoffs isn’t easy. That was a big wake-up call for a lot of people, especially our young kids.”