Ohio State will have a chance to become back-to-back national champions of women's ice hockey.
The Buckeyes earned a berth in the NCAA title game with a 3-0 victory over No. 5 seed Northeastern on Friday in the Frozen Four semifinals, marking the second consecutive year Ohio State has advanced to the championship round of the tournament.
How it Happened
In last year's semifinal matchup with Yale, the Buckeyes and Bulldogs went scoreless in the first period. However, Ohio State wasted little time to score a goal against the Huskies, as Sloane Matthews sent a shot into the net after Northeastern goaltender Gwyneth Philips deflected a Kenzie Hauswirth shot. Matthews and Hauswirth earned points for the goal, and the Buckeyes took an early 1-0 lead after 1:16 of play.
The Buckeyes spent almost all of the next 10 minutes in the offensive zone, outshooting Northeastern 12-1 in that stretch. The lone attempt from the Huskies came off an untimely turnover from defensemen Emma Peschel in the middle of the ice, leading to a wide-open opportunity for Northeastern's Maureen Murphy that Amanda Thiele stifled as Murphy crossed the faceoff dots.
At the 5:39 mark, Northeastern appeared to capitalize on another Ohio State turnover, as the Huskies secured a loose puck from All-American and Patty Kazmaier finalist Sophie Jaques' stick, surged toward the Buckeyes' net and scored from a cross-crease pass from Murphy to Chloe Aurard. However, Ohio State head coach Nadine Muzerall challenged the play because she believed a Northeastern player touched the puck with their hand and gave the Huskies an unfair advantage. The referees agreed, and Northeastern's point was wiped off the board.
Ohio State held onto its 1-0 lead after the first 20 minutes of action, and the team headed into the first intermission with an advantage in shots (18-4) and faceoffs (11-7). Thiele saved all five of Northeastern's shots on goal in the period, while the Buckeyes' defense blocked four of the Huskies' attempts.
Neither team scored in the first five minutes of the second period, but Northeastern undoubtedly had its chances. At the 15:04 mark, Matthews committed the game's first penalty for cross-checking. Less than a minute later, Paetyn Levis was called for tripping, forcing Ohio State to play five-on-three for 1:34 and five-on-four for nearly a minute. Still, the Buckeyes killed both of the Huskies' power plays, keeping their opponent off the board and maintaining their 1-0 lead.
The Buckeyes extended their lead with 8:42 left in the second period, as a quick pass from AHCA All-American Jenn Gardiner slipped past a couple of Northeastern defenders and onto the tape of Makenna Webster, who sent a wobbly puck past Philips to put the Buckeyes up 2-0 in the contest. Webster, Gardiner and Gabby Rosenthal collected points for the play.
With 1:16 left in the frame, the Buckeyes added another goal from a Hadley Hartmetz slapshot at the blue line – an attempt that made it by Philips because of an effective screen from Jenna Buglioni in front of the net. With the score, Ohio State became only the second team to score more than two goals on Northeastern this year.
At the end of the second period, in which Ohio State outshot Northeastern 20-3, the box score heavily favored the scarlet and gray. The Buckeyes had 31 more shots than the Huskies as part of a 38-7 advantage in that department. They also secured 11 more faceoffs to that point, collecting a 28-17 lead in the category after 40 minutes.
In the third, Ohio State shifted from a heavy offensive attack to a more defensive-minded, park-the-bus approach. Northeastern peppered Thiele with a few shots, but the veteran goaltender remained stout in the net. Jaques, Hartmetz, Madison Bizal and Lauren Bernard also did well to deflect shots away toward the boards, allowing the Buckeyes to clear themselves of any danger.
As the minutes trickled down and Ohio State's chances to win continued to increase, anticipation for a return to the national championship became palpable as cheers from fans decked out in the scarlet and gray echoed through AMSOIL Arena in Duluth, Minnesota. The crowd loudly responded to Freddie Mercury and Queen's "Ay-Oh" over the loudspeaker, and a "Let's Go Bucks!" could be heard in the venue and on the television broadcast.
But it wasn't until the clock hit triple zeroes that Ohio State's players celebrated the victory with complete confidence, knowing Northeastern had no intention to wave the white flag until the final whistle blew.
Once it did, the Buckeyes, who outshot the Huskies 53-13 and killed four Northeastern power plays in the contest, skated to their bench, threw their sticks in the air and cheered aloud, understanding only one game now stands between them and their second consecutive national championship.
Ohio State, the No. 1 overall seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, will play Wisconsin in the championship game, which will have a 4 p.m. puck drop Sunday at Minnesota-Duluth's AMSOIL Arena and will be televised nationally on ESPNU. The Badgers upset No. 2 seed Minnesota in Friday’s second semifinal, defeating the Gophers 3-2 in overtime.
The Buckeyes and Badgers are both member schools of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, which means they played each other four times during the regular season. Ohio State went 3-1 in those four games.
- Makenna Webster and Sloane Matthews were two of three players named Stars of the Game after the contest, with Webster receiving the first star and Matthews earning the third. Northeastern's Gwyneth Philips was the second star.
- Sophie Jaques and Jenn Gardiner were named American Hockey Coaches Association All-Americans on Thursday. Jaques was a member of the first team for the second consecutive season, and Gardiner was a second-team honoree for the first time in her career.
- Sophie Jaques is a top-three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award for the second straight year. Jaques finished behind Minnesota forward Taylor Heise last season and is in the running along with Northeastern's Alina Mueller and Colgate's Danielle Serdachny for the honor in 2022-23.
- Nadine Muzerall was named a finalist for the American Hockey Coaches Association Women's Coach of the Year Award on Monday. Muzerall has led the Buckeyes to four consecutive Frozen Four appearances and coached Ohio State to its first national championship in 2021-22.