There has been a lot going on in the Ohio State sports world over the past week. The men’s basketball team saw their season end on Sunday with a loss to Villanova in Pittsburgh on Sunday, while the women’s team made it to the Sweet Sixteen with wins over Missouri State and LSU. The victories earned them a trip to Spokane, where they would be taking on the Texas Longhorns on Friday night. As if that wasn’t enough, Ohio State’s pro day for those who are eligible for this year’s NFL Draft took place this week, E.J. Liddell declared for the NBA Draft on Friday afternoon, and a number of spring sports have opened up their seasons recently.
All that pales in comparison to what the women’s hockey team did last weekend, when they were able to clinch the program’s first national championship with a win over Minnesota-Duluth 3-2 on Sunday at the Pegula Ice Arena in State College, PA. With the victory, women’s hockey becomes just the second women’s team sport to win a national title in school history. The first Ohio State women’s team sport to claim glory was the rowing team, who won three consecutive national titles from 2013-15.
To get to the championship game on Sunday, Ohio State first needed to win their first Frozen Four game in school history on Friday night against Yale. The national semifinal started about six hours after the men’s basketball team won their first round game against Loyola-Chicago a couple hours west in Pittsburgh. Much like the men’s basketball game, it was a bit of a sluggish start on the ice, as after a scoreless first period, Ohio State fell behind early in the second period when Tabea Botthof scored for the Bulldogs.
Ohio State would respond five minutes later when Paetyn Levis tallied her 23rd goal of the season when she scored on the power play. Ohio State would then take the lead four minutes later thanks to Jennifer Gardiner’s 15th goal of the season. Riley Brengman would be credited with assists on both goals, give her two consecutive games with two points after she scored a goal and dished out an assist in the double-overtime win over Quinnipiac.
The goal by Gardiner would turn out to be the game-winning goal, which clinched Ohio State’s first-ever win the Frozen Four, and send them to Sunday’s title game against Minnesota-Duluth, who defeated third-seed Northeastern 2-1 in Friday’s first semifinal. Heading into the title game, the Buckeyes and Bulldogs had split their four regular season meetings. Minnesota-Duluth actually handed Ohio State their worst loss of the season when they beat the Buckeyes 5-2 on December 3rd in Duluth.
Unlike their recent games leading up to the championship game, Ohio State actually scored first in Sunday’s game, as Paetyn Levis scored another goal on the power play 4:10 into the second period. The Buckeyes would hold the lead for eight minutes before Naomi Rogge scored for Minnesota-Duluth to even up the score. The teams would head into the second period intermission tied 1-1, setting up an intense third period in State College.
The Buckeyes struck just 24 seconds into the third when Clair DeGeorge scored her 16th goal of the season on an assist from Levis, who returned the favor for DeGeorge setting up her first goal of the game. The Bulldogs would respond quickly with an Elizabeth Giguere goal just over a minute later to again tie the score.
After over 10 minutes of action with the game tied 2-2 in the third period, Ohio State took the lead for a third time in the game when Kenzie Hauswirth scored at the 13:20 mark. The goal was the fifth of the season scored by the forward from Minnesota. The tally would prove to be the one that secured the first national title in program history, as the Bulldogs weren’t able to put anymore shots past Ohio State goalie Amanda Thiele.
The star of the postseason for Ohio State was undoubtedly Paetyn Levis, who set a school record with 11 points in the postseason. Levis finished the season with a team-leading 24 goals. Along with Levis, the Buckeyes had Sophie Jaques and Liz Schepers finish with 21 goals this year, and 4 other skaters notched at least 15 goals. The 175 goals scored by the Buckeyes were the most in the country. Ohio State was just as good on the defensive end, allowing just 58 goals in 38 games.
What really helped Ohio State be so successful this season is they were able to take advantage of their opportunities when they went on the power play. The Buckeyes had the extra skater 96 times during the season, scoring on 36 of those advantages. The 37% power play scoring percentage was the best mark in the country. The other side of Ohio State’s special teams unit was just as dominant, with the penalty kill giving up just seven goals on the 89 occasions they were shorthanded.
The national championship is just the latest great achievement for head coach Nadine Muzerall, who won her seventh overall national title. Muzerall won two titles as a player at Minnesota, followed by four as an assistant coach with the Golden Gophers. While Muzerall has fond memories of all of those triumphs, this championship will have a special place with her since it was her first as a head coach. Sunday’s game will also have special meaning to all the coaches involved since it was first championship game with all-female coaching staffs.
About the only thing that went wrong for Ohio State this year was Sophie Jaques fell just short of being named the winner of the Patty Kazmaier Award, which is given annually to the best women’s college hockey player. Taylor Heise of Minnesota was announced as the 2022 winner of the award, while Gabby Hughes joined Jaques and Heise as a finalist. Jaques was Ohio State’s seventh top-10 finalist in program history for the award, but the first to move on to become one of the final three candidates to be considered for the award.
Along with being a national champion, Jaques was also a First Team All-American and the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year. Jaques scored 21 goals and dished out 38 assists this year, giving her 59 points on the season, which was not only the most points by defenseman in a season in Ohio State history, it also tied for the most points in a season by any Ohio State player.
Not only were Jaques numbers historic from a program perspective, they also were some of the best in the country this year. The 59 points was the second-most recorded in 20 years by a true defenseman in Division I collegiate hockey, and they were third amongst all players in Division I. Her plus-minus of +49 was the high mark in the country this year, showing just how valuable she was to the Buckeyes when she was on the ice.
The award is named after Patty Kazmaier, who was a four-year varsity letter winner from Princeton from 1981-86. Kazmaier passed away in 1990 at the age of 28 from a rare blood disease. Kazmaier’s father was Dick Kazmaier, who played college football at Princeton, and won the Heisman Trophy in 1951. Some of the notable past winners of the award are Amanda Kessel, Kendall Coyne, and Jennifer Botterill, who is the only two-time winner of the award.