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Cara Zubko Embodied Spirit of Leadership with Ohio State Buckeyes

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It was legendary Buckeyes football coach Woody Hayes who said “You win with people.” Undoubtedly, Cara Zubko is the type of person that Buckeyes hockey fans wanted to see wear their colors. Raised in Preeceville, Saskatchewan, where she was a captain for the Prairie Fire and participated in the 2011 Canada Winter Games, Zubko has excelled in the classroom as well.

Majoring in agricultural business and economics, Zubko earned scholar athlete honors on multiple occasions from both Ohio State and the WCHA. Such commitment in the classroom, along with charitable work and an undying love of sport provided a positive example for the younger Buckeyes players, allowing them a role model to aspire to.

During a sterling four year career, Zubko’s accomplishments were only enhanced by what she managed to accomplish off the ice. To be nominated twice for the prestigious BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award served as an exceptional career highlight. 

Honoring the finest citizen in collegiate hockey, which also recognizes their volunteer work, Zubko was not the only female player that earned a nomination. Among the others that were nominated for the Award included Emily Loebs from St. Michael’s, Cornell blueliner Morgan Richardson along with fellow Ivy Leaguer Alison Rolandelli, who competed with Brown.

Zubko’s leadership shone through in so many remarkable efforts. She served as the team’s primary contact for a cause known as Team Impact, teaming up teams with children afflicted by chronic diseases. Helping raise the morale of a middle schooler known as Erin, even throwing a birthday party at her house, she was made an honorary member of the Buckeyes, proudly cheering on the team during home games. She would inherit that role from former teammate Kayla Sullivan, who was also a nominee for the Award during her career.

“Being nominated was an amazing honor. I came to Ohio State to play hockey, but what I didn’t know when I came here was how many other opportunities came along with being an athlete here. I think giving back is so important, and when I could I always loved getting involved and helping others out. I know my family, friends, and teammates are all really proud of me, but honestly I owe it all to them for helping me get here and having the opportunity to have a positive impact on others’ lives.”   

Such mentoring skills served Zubko well as she also spent a summer traveling to Vietnam, educating underprivileged children. Having also engaged in other endeavors, including serving on Ohio State’s Student-Athlete Advisory Board, Zubko also donated her time reading to children with a pair of noble causes, including Second and 7 plus the Ronald McDonald House. In addition, a program known as Coach for College featured Zubko’s involvement during the summer of 2014.

Suiting up for all 36 games in her senior season, providing the Buckeyes with durability and consistency, Zubko’s 18 points would rank second among the roster’s blueliners. Of note, Zubko’s senior season would start on a very strong note, logging a pair of assists against the Lindenwood Lady Lions.

Zubko would also assemble a pair of respectable scoring streaks, including a five-game streak from October 16 to November 6, along with another streak in the New Year, starting on January 15 and stretching over three games. Her final NCAA point would come in a February 13 road game against the Bemidji State Beavers. Among such highlights, Zubko goes back to her freshman season and reflects on her first NCAA point as the highlight of her proud Buckeye career,

My favorite moment as a Buckeye was my freshman year getting my first point against Minnesota Duluth in our first regular season game. I remember it so clearly. I was so nervous getting ready for that game, it was just a relief to get that first point so quickly. Props to Kayla Sullivan for putting it in after I sent her on a breakaway!”

Equally notable is the fact that Zubko gained the chance to play for one of the greatest female hockey players of the last 25 years. A member of the WCHA’s All-Decade team, where she won the NCAA Frozen Four with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, the 2015-16 season marked Jenny Potter’s debut as a head coach in the conference, following in the footsteps of former Buckeyes coaches such as Jackie Barto and Nate Handrahan.

Having played for the United States during a gold medal effort at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, Potter’s career continued to run parallel with hockey history. Of note, she would be part of the first US team that captured the gold at the IIHF Women’s World Championships, defeating their eternal rivals Canada in 2005. Complemented by a Clarkson Cup with the Minnesota Whitecaps in 2010, Potter is the first (and only) American-born competitor part of the Triple Gold Club for Women.

“Playing at such a high level herself, Jenny knows what it takes to be an elite athlete. I know she used a lot of her own training techniques and skill work with us to help us develop as players through the year. It was intense training like an Olympian, but I was in the best shape of my life this year no doubt. It was very cool to have a coach that is not far removed from playing the game herself, she even strapped on the equipment to practice with us every now and then.” 

In discussing what she will miss most about Ohio State, Zubko’s love of sport truly rises to the surface. While she ponders the future with the possibility of extending her career at the professional level in Europe, her love of competition shall continue to make her an ideal teammate.

Taking into account that at the high school level, she balanced with hockey with participation in volleyball, basketball, badminton, track and field, lacrosse and softball, she was quickly enamoured with the Buckeyes sporting culture. With said culture long died in the wool by football, game days were among her most treasured moments, providing a pleasant distraction from the ice, while finding continued inspiration in the meaning of team spirit and hard work.

“I am going to miss everything, I loved my experience here. The one thing I will miss the most is football game days, it is just so cool and so much fun to be on campus. Everyone you see is rooting for the Bucks, and it is a great thing to be a part of.”   

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Photo credit: Muyao Shen

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