Even though the Columbus Blue Jackets have two games this weekend at Nationwide Arena, the most important hockey games in the capital city will take place a couple miles north of downtown. Ohio State’s women’s hockey team, which just took the top spot in the national rankings for the first time in program history, will host Quinnipiac later today at OSU Ice Rink, which will be hosting its first-ever women’s hockey tournament games.
The Buckeyes earned their second-ever WCHA title with wins over Wisconsin and Minnesota last weekend in Minneapolis. The WCHA tournament victory earned the Buckeyes an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament, and the victories helped propel Ohio State into the top spot in the national rankings. The other WCHA Final Faceoff title in program history came in the 2019-20 season.
In the semifinal game last weekend against Wisconsin, Ohio State found themselves in a position they weren’t very familiar with this season. The Badgers jumped out to a 1-0 lead early in the second period by Sophie Shirley. The deficit wouldn’t last long for the Buckeyes, as Liz Schepers scored her 21st goal of the season just four minutes later to make the score 1-1. Gabby Rosenthal would score the game-winning goal three minutes later, with her 19th goal of the year being the last one scored in the semifinal, giving Ohio State their third straight win over Wisconsin this year.
The victory over the Badgers allowed the Buckeyes to move onto the WCHA title game, where Ohio State would take on Minnesota, who entered the game as the nation’s top-ranked team. Apparently the Buckeyes decided to up the difficulty even more on Sunday, as Minnesota jumped out to a 2-0 lead by the end of the second period.
The Buckeyes didn’t take long to cut into Minnesota’s lead, as Sara Saekkinen scored just her second goal of the season 3:14 into the period. Sophie Jaques would tie the final up seven minutes later with her 19th goal of the season, with the tally eventually forcing overtime.
Just prior to the extra session, Minnesota’s Olivia Knowles was whistled for body checking with eight seconds to go in the third period. The penalty would end up costing the Golden Gophers, as Jaques notched her 20th goal 23 seconds into overtime. The clutch goal was Jaques’ fifth game-winning goal of the season. The 20 goals from Jaques this season ranks third on the team, and her 57 points leads the Buckeyes, with Paetyn Levis sitting eight points behind Jaques for second place this year.
As good as Jaques was for Ohio State over the weekend, just as impressive for the Buckeyes was goaltender Amanda Thiele. Ohio State was actually outshot in both games over the weekend, with Wisconsin throwing 34 shots at the net on Saturday, and Minnesota putting 33 shots on goal on Sunday. The sophomore from Michigan has a 15-3 record this season, winning the last five games she has started. Thiele now has 406 saves this season, while allowing just 24 goals, which translates to a 1.23 goals against average, and a .944 save percentage.
Now Ohio State will turn their attention to the NCAA Tournament, where they’ll be making their fourth appearance in the last five years. This marks the first time that the Buckeyes are the top seed in the tournament. Ohio State is 2-2 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, but they have never advanced past the Frozen Four semifinal to make the championship game.
Today’s opponent for the Buckeyes will be the Quinnipiac Bobcats, who earned an at-large out of the ECAC. The Bobcats enter today’s game 26-9-3 this year, with their latest win coming on Thursday in Columbus over Syracuse 4-0 in an NCAA Tournament’s first round game. After a scoreless first period, Quinnipiac opened the scoring thanks to a Taylor House goal 11:26 into the second period. Sadie Peart would add a goal four minutes later, and the Bobcats would score two more goals in the third period to setup today’s game with the Buckeyes.
Quinnipiac is going to have to hope their defense holds strong today if they want to have a shot at upsetting the top-seeded Buckeyes. Olivia Mobley leads the Bobcats with 17 goals and 33 points in 38 games this season. Taylor House and Nina Steigauf both have added 15 goals this year, while Sadie Peart is the only other Quinnipiac skater with double-digit goals this year, entering today’s contest with 14 tallies. By comparison, Ohio State has five players with at least 18 goals this year.
Ohio State will be trying to avoid suffering their first loss in program history against Quinnipiac. The Buckeyes are 5-0 against the Bobcats, with their first meeting coming during the 2003-04 season. The most recent times the schools have met came during series in the 2018-19 season and the 2019-20 season. The Bobcats played Ohio State tough in those four games, as the four games were all decided by one goal.
If the Buckeyes are able to defeat Quinnipiac, they’ll move on to the Frozen Four, which will kickoff on Friday at the Pegula Ice Arena in State College, Pennsylvania. After playing thrilling games last weekend against Wisconsin and Minnesota, it’s possible that the Buckeyes could see both teams again in the Frozen Four. If Wisconsin defeats Northeastern, they’ll take on the winner of today’s Ohio State game. Minnesota takes on in-state foe Minnesota-Duluth in a quarterfinal. The Buckeyes could battle the Golden Gophers in the title game if both schools win two more games each.
If you waited to grab some tickets to today’s game, you might still be able to get in. As of Friday night, there was still tickets available via Ticketmaster. Ohio State had to settle for hosting their first regional at OSU Ice Rink since the Ohio high school wrestling tournament has taken over Value City Arena this weekend. For those who still want to watch the game, B1G+ is offering a free broadcast of the quarterfinal later today.