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Column: Women’s ice hockey shines during collegiate season, Olympics

The Ohio State women’s ice hockey team just finished an amazing regular season and sent a program record amount of players to the Olympics.

Ohio State Buckeyes v Wisconsin Badgers Photo by Justin Berl/NCAA Photos/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

It’s time to spotlight another Ohio State athletic team that is extremely good, and you might not even be aware of it. Some could say they are the best hockey team in Ohio (sorry, Blue Jackets).

The women’s ice hockey team just played their final regular season game, capping off a phenomenal regular season. But that’s not all. They sent six players — past, present and even future — to the Beijing Olympics!

Head coach Nadine Muzerall was hired in 2016 to turn around the program, and she has done just that. She led the Buckeyes to their first two ever Frozen Four appearances in 2018 and 2021. The team is currently sitting at No. 2 in the national rankings, following a 25-6 regular season.

If there is any year the Buckeyes are primed to go deep in the tournament, it looks like this is it. With 11 seniors and grad students, the roster is loaded with experience and drive to get back to the Frozen Four, following a loss to Wisconsin in the tournament last season. This year’s senior class has combined for over 500 points and helped the program to three of its five 20-plus win seasons.

Ohio State’s 25 wins on the year are a program record for single-season wins, and the Bucekeyes’ 21 wins in conference games are also a program best. Additionally, the Bucks finished No. 2 in the WCHA (Western Collegiate Hockey Association) conference, tying the best finish in school history.

CHINA-BEIJING-OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES-ICE HOCKEY-WOMEN’S BRONZE MEDAL GAME-FIN VS SUI (CN) Photo by Wang Jianwei/Xinhua via Getty Images

So now you’re probably thinking, who led this team to such a great season? Well, the star goaltender, senior Andrea Braendli, certainly contributed. She is the only current Buckeye who went to the Olympics for ice hockey. Braendli posted a .924 save percentage in the 12 games she played before leaving for Beijing to represent Switzerland. She is the winningest goaltender in program history with 56 wins for her career so far.

Moving on to the other Buckeyes in the Olympics, Jincy Dunne graduated in 2020 and represented the U.S. During her time at Ohio State, she was the 2020 Ohio State Female Athlete of the Year and received the Big Ten Medal of Honor. Dunne is also tied for third in the Ohio State record book with 99 career points as a defenseman.

A bit of an interesting story is Emma Maltais. She graduated last year, yet decided to take this season off in order to prep for the Olympics. Maltais still has another year of eligibility, and plans to take it next season. The Canadian owns the Ohio State record for single-season points (59) and assists (40).

Maltais’ teammate on the Canadian team is Natalie Spooner, a 2012 OSU grad. This is her third trip to the Games after being a 2014 gold-medalist in Sochi and 2018 silver medalist in PyeongChang. The two-time world champion and eight-time world medalist has been a member of the Canadian national team program since 2007.

Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 13 Photo by Xavier Laine/Getty Images

Spooner is one of the best offensive players in program history, being the only Buckeye to have scored 100 goals in her time at Ohio State and still stands as the leading goal scorer in program history.

Minttu Tuominen made her fourth trip to the Games this past month, representing Finland. She is a 2013 Ohio State grad, where she played in 124 games and recorded 16 goals and 33 assists. Tuominen is a two-time bronze medalist, in 2010 and 2018.

Last but certainly not least is 22-year-old incoming freshman Sofie Lundin. The Swede helped her home country qualify for the 2022 Olympics, playing in all three qualification games and scoring one goal. Lundin played the last six seasons for Djurgarden Stockholm, a professional team in the Swedish Hockey League.

While the Olympics are over and two of these women (Spooner and Maltais) are gold-medalists, the Buckeyes are just now entering the postseason. They begin play on Friday in a best-of-three game series against No. 7 St. Cloud State. It’s at OSU Ice Rink if any of you Columbus residents want to cheer them on!