Ohio State is the women’s Frozen Four hockey champion at last.
The Buckeyes won the first title in program history on Sunday, defeating Minnesota-Duluth 3-2 in the championship game. Ohio State had been the tournament’s top-seeded team for the first time, as well, following the Buckeyes’ first 30-plus-win regular season (31-6).
“I just believed in these girls so much, as they did in each other, and I thought this was one of the best hockey games they played all year,” said Ohio State coach Nadine Muzerall. “So deserving of it, and they never quit. They played flawlessly tonight. I’m so proud of them.”
Sunday’s result came in particularly crushing fashion for the unseeded Bulldogs, who last won a championship in 2010. While it was Buckeyes forward Kenzie Hauswirth credited with the game-winning score, her shot went off UMD defender Brenna Fuhrman’s skate for an own goal that fooled netminder Emma Soderberg.
Soderberg had been the Bulldogs’ best player throughout the tournament, backstopping UMD to wins over Harvard (4-0), No. 2 Minnesota (2-1) and No. 3 Northeastern (2-1). She was sensational again in the final, turning in a 33-save performance.
The Buckeyes were the nation’s top team for a reason, though, and they showed why again on Sunday.
“I thought we did a great job getting after them fast in the first period and continuing to keep that pressure,” Muzerall said. “I thought our transition game was excellent and that we did a great job with back pressure. And we scored when we needed to. Even though they counterpunched after each goal, we didn’t quit, and I think that shows the sign of a champion.”
After a scoreless first period, Ohio State forward Paetyn Levis had the Buckeyes on the board first with a power-play goal in the second, taking a booming hit from Naomi Rogge as she fired a puck past Soderberg.
It was Rogge who then made it 1-1 later in the middle frame off a tip of Kailee Skinner’s shot in front of Amanda Thiele. Rogge was the hero for UMD in the semifinals, scoring the double-overtime game winner against Northeastern.
The third period began in dramatic fashion for both sides. Less than a minute in, Soderberg left her net to play the puck but mishandled it right back to the rushing Buckeyes, and Clair DeGeorge easily put Ohio State up 2-1.
It wouldn’t last. Elizabeth Giguere responded quickly for UMD with a slick wrister over the glove of Thiele to knot the title game again 2-2.
Ohio State kept the pressure on, but Soderberg was up to the task. She made a terrific paddle stop that saved one sure goal and stoned Jenna Buglioni on a breakaway.
It was the weird bounce off Fuhrman that finally cracked Soderberg, giving Ohio State a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Following the Buckeyes’ win, senior Levis was named the Most Outstanding Player.