Ohio State is year’s Cinderella story in college hockey. The Buckeyes are making their first ever appearance in a women’s Frozen Four, after pulling off upset on the road of #4 Boston College last weekend.
The Buckeyes were picked to finish tied for third in the WCHA preseason poll behind traditional powerhouses Minnesota and Wisconsin, but quickly served notice to the league, and the rest of the country with an early season win at Minnesota, and following that up with a tie the next night. They spent the rest of the season ranked in the 4-8 range, and managing to get into the NCAA Tournament for the first time.
But despite being the new team among perennial powers, the Buckeyes aren’t likely to be overwhelmed by the experience. There’s a certain comfort for Ohio State playing at Ridder Arena. It starts with head coach Nadine Muzerall, who was a star player at Minnesota, and an assistant coach with the Gophers for five seasons. They also have seven skaters who hail from the state of the Minnesota, and according to Muzerall, they “play with a bit of a chip on their shoulder” returning to their home state. Muzerall also mentioned that the large family contingent they’ll bring, along with the fact that they’re not Wisconsin or an east coast team could give them a little home ice advantage from the crowd.
In terms of style of play, Ohio State is likely a bit out-gunned here against some of the big name programs. Their recipe for success is likely to similar to how they won last week at Boston College. They’re a team that is strongest on the from the net out, so the goal is to play a tight defensive game and keep it low-scoring enough that a goal or two from the first line, or on the power play is enough for them to squeak by. I’d also expect a very short bench for the Buckeyes, with four defenseman and two forward lines seeing the majority of ice time, with the third line and fifth D sprinkled in when necessary.
Players to watch for the Buckeyes:
Kassidy Sauve, Junior, Goalie- It’s been a testament to how well Ohio State’s season has gone that the Buckeyes haven’t had to rely on Sauve—the WCHA’s preseason player of the year—as much as they had to in previous years. But Sauve is a goalie with the ability to steal games. She made 38 stops in a shutout victory last weekend against Boston College, and they’ll need her to be just as good again this weekend as underdogs once again.
Jincy Dunne, Sophomore, Defenseman-Dunne was one of the last cuts from the 2014 US Olympic team as a 16-year-old, but her career hit a roadblock when she was forced to miss all of what would have been her freshman season due to a concussion. Nearly two years removed from that, Dunne is once again beginning to round into form. She’s a fluid skater that controls the puck well and is a workhorse for the Buckeyes. If she isn’t out on the ice, chances are she’s coming out the very next shift.
Emma Maltais, Freshman, Forward-Maltais was an instant offensive catalyst for the Buckeyes this year. She’s small, and not particularly fast, but has incredible hockey sense and a good stick, which makes her a dangerous threat with the puck, and makes everyone around her better.