Ohio State women’s hockey will play for a national championship for the first time in program history.
The Buckeyes earned a berth in the national championship game with a 2-1 victory over No. 5 seed Yale on Friday night in the Frozen Four semifinals, marking the first time Ohio State has ever won a Women’s Frozen Four game.
After a scoreless first period, Yale scored the first goal of the night less than two minutes into the second period when Bulldogs defenseman Tabea Botthof collected a loose puck in front of the net and knocked it past Ohio State goalie Amanda Thiele. But Ohio State quickly responded with two goals of its own, and that would end up being all the Buckeyes would need.
Paetyn Levis scored Ohio State’s first goal of the night on the Buckeyes’ first power play of the night, firing a shot past Yale goalie Gianna Meloni off of assists from Liz Schepers and Riley Brengman to tie the game up with 12:52 to play in the second period.
Less than four minutes later, Jenn Gardiner gave the Buckeyes the lead with a highlight-reel goal as she made a smooth move past Yale defenseman Greta Skarzynski before slickly firing a shot over Meloni’s head into the top shelf of the net.
Thiele, who had 23 saves, and the Buckeyes kept Yale off the board for the rest of the game to maintain their 2-1 advantage and clinch their first-ever Frozen Four win.
“What an exciting game,” Ohio State coach Nadine Muzerall said after the game. “The last couple games that we’ve had, we’ve been down and fought back and so I just really compliment how resilient they are and how they play with a lot of heart and they don’t quit and they believe in each other ... They’re very deserving of this. They’ve worked very hard all year.”
Ohio State, the No. 1 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, will play Minnesota Duluth in the national championship game, which is set for a 4 p.m. puck drop Sunday at Penn State’s Pegula Ice Arena and will be televised on ESPNU. The Buckeyes and Bulldogs are both members of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association; they played each other four times during the regular season, with each team winning twice – once on their own home ice and once in each other’s arenas.
While Muzerall wants the Buckeyes to focus on the same things that have gotten to this point, as they’ve won a program-record 31 games and gone further than any Ohio State women’s hockey team has ever gone before, she isn’t going to try to downplay the stakes of the game.
“This is something that they’ll remember forever, playing in a national championship for their program that has never been there before,” Muzerall said. “I think it’s OK to understand that it is a different game, but we have to get back to the basics of how we got here, and I trust in these guys. That’s the biggest thing. There’s a lot of trust in each other. So I don’t worry about that piece as much just because I think they’re prepared and they’re ready.”
Levis said the Buckeyes are “super excited” to be playing in their first national championship game, and they believe in each other and their ability to win it all.
“We’re confident in what we’re doing right now, so I think moving forward here, we’re excited and we’re ready to go,” Levis said.