For the second year in a row, two WCHA teams will square off in the women’s hockey NCAA Championship Game. After beating Minnesota-Duluth in last year’s title game, this year Ohio State will take on Wisconsin. The WCHA has dominated women’s hockey over the last two decades, with the conference winning 18 of the 21 national championships in the sport.
To get to the final, Ohio State beat Northeastern 3-0 on Friday in St. Paul. The Buckeyes struck early when Sloane Matthews scored her sixth goal of the season just over a minute into the game. Matthews became the first Ohio State freshman to score a goal in the Frozen Four.
The Buckeyes added two more goals in the second period to put some distance on the Huskies. Makenna Webster scored her 15th goal of the year just over halfway through the period. Hadley Hartmetz closed out the scoring in the game seven minutes later with her sixth goal of the season.
While Ohio State kept up the pressure throughout the game, registering 53 shots on goal, the same can’t be said about Northeastern. The Huskies were only able to muster 15 shots on goal, which Amanda Thiele stopped all of. The shutout was Thiele’s fourth of the season, and the second by a Buckeye goalie in an NCAA Tournament game. The 20 wins this year by Thiele ties a school single-season record.
After the Buckeyes beat the Huskies on Friday, Minnesota and Wisconsin battled in the second semifinal. The Golden Gophers struck first, but Laila Edwards evened the score at the 6:32 mark of the third period. The Badgers took the lead under a minute later when Sophie Shirley found the net. Minnesota tied the score with just over a minute left in regulation, forcing overtime.
Wisconsin clinched their spot in today’s title game when Caroline Harvey scored 16:47 into the first overtime period. Harvey has had a phenomenal first season at Wisconsin, becoming the second Badger freshman to earn All-American honors when she was named a second-team All-American.
The Badgers were able to get some revenge on Minnesota after the Golden Gophers beat Wisconsin 4-2 in a WCHA Frozen Four semifinal game a couple weeks ago. Now the Badgers will try and beat an Ohio State team that won three of the four regular season meetings between the schools this year.
The first game between the teams came in Columbus on Jan. 13, with Ohio State winning 2-1 in overtime when Sophie Jaques scored with less than a minute left in the extra period. The Buckeyes would cruise the next night, shutting out the Badgers 5-0. Paetyn Levis recorded a hat trick, while Amanda Thiele stopped all 17 shots she faced.
The lone win for Wisconsin would come a month later in Madison. The Badgers scored four goals in the first period, but Ohio State would fight back to tie the game 5-5 and force overtime when Emma Maltais scored with just over two minutes left in regulation. Kirsten Simms scored two minutes into overtime to secure the victory.
The momentum for the Badgers wouldn’t last long, as the Buckeyes were able to win their first-ever regular season title the next day. After falling behind 1-0, Ohio State did all their damage in the last five minutes of the third period. Maltais tied the game at the 15:43 mark, and Madison Bizal broke the tie with 55 seconds to go. Bizal would add a second goal 30 seconds later to secure the victory for Ohio State.
Even though Ohio State won three of the four matchups with the Badgers this year, Wisconsin is one of the few teams in the country that can match the firepower of the Buckeyes. The Badgers notched 168 goals this year heading into this game, while Ohio State enters with 169 goals. Wisconsin has nine players with at least 10 goals this season, led by Casey O’Brien and Britta Curl, who both have scored 19 goals this year. The Buckeyes have seven players with at least 10 tallies this year, paced by Sophie Jaques’ 24 goals.
Last year Sophie Jaques was a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, which is given annually to the best women’s collegiate hockey player in the country. Jaques fell just short at earning the honor last year, as Minnesota’s Taylor Heise was announced as the winner. This year Jaques was again a finalist, and the result was much different.
The Buckeye defenseman edged Northeastern’s Alina Mueller and Danielle Serdachny of Colgate. Jaques holds the WCHA record for most career goals by a defenseman with 61, and her 156 points are the most by a defenseman in Ohio State history.
Now Jaques will look to cap off an incredible career in scarlet and gray with a second straight national championship.
Time: 4:00 p.m. ET