While the Blue Jackets are fighting to give themselves the best shot in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes by having the worst record in the league, the men’s and women’s Buckeye hockey teams are both fighting for a national championship.
Women’s ice hockey
In the case of the Ohio State women’s hockey team, the Buckeyes are looking to become back-to-back champions. This weekend has Nadine Muzerall’s team heading to Minneapolis for a couple showdowns with Minnesota.
After the Buckeyes beat the Golden Gophers in three of their four regular season meetings last year, as well as earning a 3-2 overtime win in the WCHA Final Faceoff, Minnesota won the first meeting of this season, 4-2 in Columbus in late September. Ohio State recovered to earn a 4-4 tie in the follow-up meeting the next day. The 4-2 loss is the only loss the Buckeyes have suffered in regulation this year.
Even though Minnesota currently sits above Ohio State in the WCHA standings, the Buckeyes are ranked first in the country in the USCHO rankings. The Golden Gophers sit third in the rankings entering this weekend’s action. The Buckeyes have been on a hot streak, winning their last 10 games, but that won’t be the longest win streak when the teams take the ice, as Minnesota has won 12-straight contests.
There are a number of familiar names from last year’s championship team that are back to try and help Ohio State repeat. Last year, Sophie Jaques was the 2022 WCHA Defender of the Year, as well as a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award given annually to the top female college ice hockey player in the United States. In her fifth season in Columbus, Jaques is just two goals away from matching the career-high 21 goals she netted last season. The 19 goals Jaques scored this year are a team-high.
Leading Ohio State in scoring is Jennifer Gardiner, who has scored 16 goals and dished out 26 assists. Both of those totals are already career highs in a season for Gardiner, who notched 15 goals and 24 assists last season in 38 games. The senior is also +26 so far this season, which is better than the +23 she posted last year.
Last season, Paetyn Levis was at her best in the biggest games of the season, earning a spot on the Frozen Four All-Tournament Team, and being named MVP of the Frozen Four. Levis scored in both Frozen Four contests. Following a season where she tallied 24 goals and 29 assists, Levis is on a similar pace this year, scoring 18 goals and 14 helpers through 28 games.
Between the pipes, Amanda Thiele got better as the season moved along last year, finishing with an 18-3 record with a 1.31 goals against average. White Thiele has the highest goals against average and lowest save percentage among the three Ohio State goaltenders, her numbers are still really good.
Any team in the country would be thrilled to have a goaltender like Thiele, who has a 1.94 goals against average and .895 save percentage in the 15 games she has played this year. The Buckeyes have a luxury of being able to call on Raygan Kirk or Quinn Kuntz if they feel Thiele isn’t on top of her game.
Men’s ice hockey
Ohio State’s men’s hockey team entered Friday’s game against Penn State with a 16-9-1 record. Following a slow start to the season, the Buckeyes have won seven of their last nine games, which has allowed them to move up to seventh in the USCHO rankings.
During their last nine games, the only two losses came on the road, with the first being a 4-2 setback at Michigan on Jan. 14, and the other coming six days later when the Buckeyes were shutout 4-0 by Wisconsin.
Ohio State and Penn State have met twice already this season in early December. The Nittany Lions won the first meeting 2-1 on their home ice. The Buckeyes regrouped the following day to win 4-3. The two teams enter Friday’s game with pretty similar records. Penn State has played two more games this year and is 18-9-1, while Ohio State’s 9-7 record in the Big Ten is just a little better than the 8-9-1 conference record of the Nittany Lions.
The Buckeyes have had a variety of players find the back of the net this year, as three skaters have at least 10 goals this sesason. Cam Thiesing’s 11 goals lead the team, while Joe Dunlap and Davis Burnside each have 10 goals. Stephen Halliday is the team’s overall scoring leading with 24 points, just one point ahead of Jake Wise for the team lead. Mason Lohrei has the high assist total on the team this year, dishing out 18 helpers.
Unlike the women’s team, which has three goalies who have played in at least four games, Jakub Dobes has seen the majority of the time in goal. Dobes has played 1451 of the possible 1505 minutes through 25 games this season. The Buckeye goalie is 15-9-1 this year with a 2.27 goals against average, and a .918 save percentage. The fifth round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in the 2020 NHL Draft has recorded two shutouts so far this season.