Women’s Hockey Season Ends Short of NCAA Tourney but OSU Serves Notice That Program is on the Rise

By Aubrey Nelson on March 10, 2019 at 10:00 pm
The women's hockey Buckeyes celebrate a home win.

Few expected the Buckeyes to duplicate last season’s historic Frozen Four run. Many predicted that the team would come back to earth in 2018-19. Two major factors played into this forecast. One was the return of the WCHA’s top talent from Olympic centralization. The other was the loss of All-American goaltender Kassidy Sauve.

But despite those hurdles, Ohio State proved last season was no fluke. The Bucks finished 20-13-2 overall and 12-10-2-1 in the WCHA. They recorded back-to-back 20+ win seasons for the first time in program history. Ohio State was the conference’s third-place team (out of seven) and advanced to the semifinals in the WCHA tournament.

OSU’s record was made more impressive by a difficult schedule. In addition to running the WCHA gauntlet, the Buckeyes squared off against PairWise top-16 teams Colgate, St. Lawrence, and Mercyhurst. In spite of the tough competition, the Bucks went 6-2-0 in non-conference play.

Ohio State reached its high water mark of the season in the early weeks of the new year. The Buckeyes rose to No. 5 in the national polls following a series split with the Badgers. The Bucks were flirting with not only securing a return trip to the NCAA tournament but hosting their quarterfinal matchup as a top seed.  

Unfortunately, the team slipped from that solid footing down the stretch. The Bucks struggled to post wins against the conference’s mid-tier teams, Minnesota-Duluth and Bemidji State. In the end, it was those results that cost OSU a trip to the big dance.

Still, it isn’t exactly accurate to say Ohio State underachieved this season. Though the narrow semifinal loss was hard to swallow, on the whole, this was another terrific season for Ohio State hockey. This campaign continued to establish the program as a rising power in women’s college hockey.

The whole being-a-consistently-elite-team thing is new territory for OSU. Growing pains are to be expected along the way. This sort of close-but-no-cigar season is like a toddler pitching over while learning to walk. It hurts but it’s part of the process. Soon this program will be off and running full tilt. Then the college hockey world had better look out.

Career Years and Breakout Seasons

Many considered the loss of All-American goaltender Kassidy Sauve would be an insurmountable hurdle for Ohio State in 2018-19. But freshman netminder Andrea Braendli was dynamite between the pipes from Day 1. Over the course of the season, she earned seven weekly conference honors and one monthly conference laurel along with three national stars of the week and one national goaltender of the month nod.

Braendli finished the season as one of the top goalies in the NCAA. She boasted a 1.88 GAA and .939 save percentage plus six shutouts (all in conference play). Every one of these stats ranks among the program’s all-time best single-season marks. The Swiss freshman led all netminders in conference save percentage (.941) and was third in GAA (1.83). It is more than a little ludicrously that she did not crack one of the three All-Conference Teams.

Braendli was supported by a hard-working defensive corps, led by WCHA Defenseman of the Year, Jincy Dunne. The redshirt junior is only the second Buckeye in program history to win the award (Tessa Bonhomme, 2008). Offensively, Dunne posted a career-high 27 points. She led all WCHA defenders in scoring. Naturally, she was named First Team All-WCHA.

Dunne was joined in the Bucks’ top defensive pairing by breakout newcomer Sophie Jaques. The freshman defender looked like anything but a rookie this year squaring off against some of the nation’s best players. She earned a well-deserved spot on the WCHA’s All-Rookie Team. Fellow freshman and blueliner Madison Bizal also carved out a regular roster spot. So did forward Paetyn Levis.

Emma Maltais once again powered the Buckeye offense. The sensational sophomore posted a career-high 43 points this season. She was First Team All-WCHA as well as the conference’s co-scoring champ with 27 points in league games. Maltais now owns 83 career points. She already ranks No. 15 on Ohio State’s all-time scoring chart.

It was also a notable year for some seniors. Forward Maddy Field brought her career point total to a nice, round 100. Forward Charly Dahlquist notched a new career-high point total (14-13--27). Forward Jacyn Reeves was a nominee for the 2019 Hockey Humanitarian Award. Defenseman Lauren Boyle became the first Buckeye drafted by a professional team when she was selected fourteenth overall by the NWHL’s Minnesota Whitecaps.

An Early Look at 2019-20

Barring weird offseason upheaval, Nadine Muzerall will have a significant core of her top players back next season including Dunne and Jaques on defense. Maltais will be back to lead the offense. She’ll probably be joining the century club by Thanksgiving. The ever-dangerous Tatum Skaggs also returns. She’ll probably be hitting 50 career goals around the same time.

Braendli is slated to backstop the team once again. She’ll be joined in the goalie corps by standout incoming freshman Quinn Kuntz. The Bucks should also get a boost from incoming firecracker forward Ramsey Parent and solid defender Kailey Langefels. 

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