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Ohio State’s women’s ice hockey team falls in WCHA Final Faceoff title game

The Buckeyes will now wait to see who their quest for a second consecutive NCAA title will start against

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Ohio State’s women’s ice hockey team was able to make it to the WCHA Final Faceoff Championship Game, but the Buckeyes weren’t able to take down Minnesota, who came into the WCHA postseason tournament just behind Nadine Muzerall’s team in the conference’s regular season standings.

Even with the loss, there is still plenty of reasons to be excited about Ohio State’s chances of repeating as national champions.

Ohio State played in the first semifinal of the WCHA Final Faceoff on Friday, matching up against Minnesota-Duluth, who the Buckeyes faced in the championship game of last year’s NCAA Tournament. After a scoreless first period, Ohio State struck first, as Brooke Bink scored an unassisted goal at the 10:50 mark of the second period, registering her third goal of the season.

Less than a minute later the Buckeyes doubled their lead with another unassisted goal. This time Emma Maltais was credited with the goal, giving her 11 goals on the season. The tally would end up being the game-winning goal, as Minnesota-Duluth was able to pull a goal back with less than three minutes left in the game after they pulled their goalie and brought an extra attacker onto the ice. Maltais now has three game-winning goals this season, and 16 in her Ohio State career, which ties Natalie Spooner for most game-winning goals in program history.

The victory secured Ohio State’s fifth trip to the WCHA championship game, and fourth consecutive year they have made the final. The win was also a notable one for goaltender Amanada Thiele, who now has 18 wins this season, which tied her career-high. Thiele also was credited with 18 wins last season, but the junior hopes there are a few more wins that are still out there that she’ll be able to add to her season total this year.

Unfortunately, Ohio State couldn’t make it three WCHA tournament titles in the last four seasons. The Buckeyes fell behind in the latter half of the first period when Savannah Norcross scored an even-strength goal to give the Golden Gophers a 1-0 lead. Minnesota would double their lead just over seven minutes into the second period thanks to a power play goal from Abbey Murphy, which was her 28th goal of the season.

The Buckeyes would respond with four minutes left in the period when Gabby Rosenthal netted her 20th goal of the campaign. The Golden Gophers would restore their two-goal lead just over a minute later when Peyton Hemp lit the lamp at Ridder Arena. The goal from Hemp would be the last goal scored in the game.

Even though they didn’t win the conference tournament, Ohio State is still a lock to make the NCAA Tournament since they are not only one of the best teams in the country, they are also WCHA regular season champions. The Buckeyes will find out who the defense of their national title will start against this afternoon when the teams included in the NCAA Tournament are announced on the selection show at noon on ESPNews.

Sophie Jaques continues to add accolades to her time at Ohio State, as she was named WCHA Player of the Year on Thursday. Jaques is strong on both offense and defense. Not only does Jaques lead one of the stingiest defenses in the country, her 46 points were tops amongst defensemen nationally.

Jaques already holds Ohio State’s record for most points by a defenseman with 154 points, she is one goal from tying the WCHA record for most goals by a defenseman in a career, which currently stands at 60 goals. This marks the second time a Buckeye has been named WCHA Player of the Year, with Tessa Bonhomme being the first to win the award in 2006.

Along with Jaques, Ohio State head coach was named WCHA Co-Coach of the Year, sharing the award with St. Cloud State’s Brian Idalski. Muzerall has taken the women’s hockey program to new heights since arriving in Columbus in 2016, leading the team to their first national title last year, and their first WCHA regular season title this season.

Muzerall now has been named the WCHA Coach of the Year four times in seven seasons at Ohio State, with this year being the second consecutive year she has earned the honor. For the second straight season Ohio State has won at least 30 games. Prior to Muzerall taking over as head coach, Ohio State had just one 20-win season.