Buckeyes chase history, try and go back-to-back as national champions
Ohio State will try to join the three champions before it in repeating as NCAA title-holders when the Buckeyes face Wisconsin on Sunday in Duluth.
DULUTH — Women's college hockey has more teams, and elite players, than ever before.
And yet, if top-seeded Ohio State fails to repeat as champions on Sunday against Wisconsin, it would mark a swerve from the recent norm.
All three of the national title-holders before the Buckeyes — including the Badgers, who bookended the 2020 COVID-canceled NCAA tournament with titles in 2019 and 2021 — won two championships in a row.
Ohio State will carry the wisdom gleaned from recent championship success to the finale. Only four underclassmen featured in the Buckeyes' semifinal line up against Northeastern.
"I think bringing [last season's experience] into this year was really great because we had so much leadership and so many seniors to kind of bring up even our younger players," said Ohio State graduate student Gabby Rosenthal, who has 21 goals this year. "I think that's what makes us so good is we're a really well-rounded team this year."
With newly-crowned Patty Kazmaier Award winner Sophie Jaques controlling the blueline and the nation's second-best scoring offense averaging more than four goals a game, Ohio State has all the components to win a second title.
Last season, the Buckeyes became the fifth team to win an NCAA Division I hockey championship with a 3-2 win over Minnesota Duluth. Only one previous first-time winner — Clarkson, which failed to repeat after winning in 2014 but went on to claim two more titles within four years — did not win a second straight championship.
The Buckeyes, and head coach Nadine Muzerall — who described herself as "extremely competitive" before a 3-0 smothering of Northeastern — are keen to avoid becoming the second on Sunday.
"It's a lot of talk that's built up after you win your first one," Muzerall said after her team's practice on Saturday. "There's a lot of talk of repeat, repeat, repeat and it's kinda hard to do."
With success comes attention, and Ohio State is no stranger to the spotlight as the top-ranked team in the polls for most of the season. They've been No. 1 in all but one of the USCHO and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls since Thanksgiving.
Sunday provides a chance for the Buckeyes to prove those voters right against an unseeded Wisconsin side looking to complete a trio of upsets over the tournament's top three seeds after knocking off No. 3 Colgate in the quarterfinals and No. 2 Minnesota in the semifinals on Friday.
Muzerall and company would love to spoil the Badgers' trifecta and hang a second championship banner. The teams have met four times this season, with two meetings decided in overtime. Ohio State took three of the four contests.
The fifth meeting, 3 p.m. Sunday inside Amsoil Arena, is the one that matters.
"I think there's something that burns inside an athlete. Understanding how difficult that is, and how badly you want it just adds fuel to the fire," Muzerall said, borrowing a motivational theme from soccer star and four-time NCAA champion Mia Hamm.
"Hopefully our team will ignite, set fire to this place tomorrow and win."