It’s Tuesday so it must be hockey awards day. (Unless you’re the WCHA and then you announce some super important ones on Monday evening just to screw up the hockey writer.) Andrea Braendli and Tanner Laczynski each picked up weekly conference awards but the big winner this week was Jincy Dunne who was named the WCHA’s Defensive Player of the Year.
“To win this award, knowing the level of players we have in the WCHA, is truly humbling,” said Dunne. “I truly believe we’re in the best league in the nation, and being selected as the top defenseman in the best league is an incredible honor.”
“Well-deserved” does not even begin to adequately describe Dunne’s achievement. The O’Fallon, Missouri native is some kind of an improbable cross between a steadfast rock, anchoring Ohio State’s defense, and a perpetual energy machine, in constant motion for a mind-blowing amount of ice time.
And her ice time does not suffer in quality despite its quantity. In 2018-19 Dunne was the WCHA’s co-defensive scoring leader in both overall (25) and conference-only games (17). She ranked in the top-10 in assists and blocked shots among all league players.
Dunne trails only Emma Maltais on the Buckeye scoring chart this year. She has posted four goals and 23 assists through 32 games. Those 27 total points are a new career-high for the Buckeye blueliner.
It’s rare that a player completely lives up to their hype. In Dunne’s case, the hype might actually have been more of an understatement. She joins program legend Tessa Bonhomme as the only two Buckeyes in history to win the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year award. It’s a fact that makes the honor a little bit sweeter for Dunne.
“I actually didn’t know that until yesterday, that Tessa was the only other Buckeye to win the award,” smiled Dunne. “That made it extra special for me because Tessa is fantastic. She’s a fantastic alum. She’s a fantastic player. She’s an Olympian. She’s kicking butt as a broadcaster right now. So to even be in the same category as her I was completely, completely humbled by that.”
“Jincy plays with one of the highest hockey IQs I’ve ever seen,” praised head coach Nadine Muzerall. “She’s always thinking ahead to the next play, or two plays later. She’s a 200-foot player who impacts the game at every level, and she’s one of the best people I’ve met. Jincy is the type of woman I want my daughter looking up to. She has a bright future and truly deserves this honor.”
“She controls the power play, she’s the backbone of our PK, and 5-on-5 she just is a phenomenal all-around hockey player,” continued Muzerall. “It’s a huge honor, especially in our league...To be the Defensive Player...while playing against [the No. 1 and No. 2] teams nine times speaks volumes of her as a player.”
The only thing about the award that doesn’t sit well with Muzerall is the fact that it was the only honor to come Dunne’s way. “It’s just upsetting as she wasn’t represented on the national stage as a top-10 Patty Kazmaier finalist,” noted the Buckeye coach. “She was very deserving of that. It’s just very unfortunate.”
Braendli and Laczynski are Best of the Week
For the second straight week, Andrea Braendli is the WCHA’s Goaltender of the Week. She got her latest nod after backstopping the Buckeye women to a first-round conference tournament sweep of Minnesota State. Braendli was stellar in thwarting 47 of the Mavericks’ 49 shots, including all 28 in a series-clinching shutout. It was her sixth whitewash of the season.
Tanner Laczynski also nabbed a conference laurel this week. He is the Big Ten’s Third Star. The Philadelphia Flyers prospect potted a goal and three assists in the Bucks’ split with Michigan State while centering what was far and away the team’s best line throughout the series. This is Laczynski’s sixth career weekly honor.
The Week Ahead
The women’s hockey Bucks are off to Minneapolis this weekend for a huge WCHA semifinal showdown with Wisconsin. Game time is Saturday at 6pm ET. Internet prognosticators predict an upset of the Badgers this week will be enough to vault Ohio State into position for an at large bid to the NCAA tournament.
OSU is No. 10 in the PairWise rankings, bunched tightly with both Boston schools, Princeton, and Providence ahead as well as Colgate behind. The six teams rank from No. 6 to No. 11 and are separated by .021 of an RPI point. Only the top two finishers in the group will have a shot at an at large bid.
The Big Ten tourney also gets underway this week. As the regular season champs, the Buckeye men have a first-round bye. But we’ll still take a look at the rest of the matchups later this week along with the women’s semifinal.
- Honorable mentions for this week’s WCHA awards include Braendli (47 saves, Rookie of the Week), Dunne (one goal and one assist, Defenseman of the Week), and Jacyn Reeves (one goal and one assist, Forward of the Week).