Ohio State coach's will to win instilled in defending Frozen Four champs
For the second consecutive season, the Buckeyes are the No. 1 seed heading into the Frozen Four. They'll look to win their second-ever national title in 2023.
DULUTH — “A lot of teams can win one [a national championship], but can you defend it?”
Those are the words Ohio State head coach Nadine Muzerall uttered during a press conference on Thursday after the squad’s practice leading up to the 2023 Frozen Four. After winning the program's first ever national championship in 2022, Ohio State is back and ready for more.
“I’m extremely competitive so I want to win all the time, and I’m sure my athletes think the same,” she added. “I wouldn’t use the word nervous or anxious or anything like that, it’s just like adrenaline and you have a passion that you want to win all the time. So that’s what’s fueling me and going through my soul, is just to win, and I think that that bleeds into them.”
The Buckeyes once again come in as the No. 1 team in the nation leading up to their Frozen Four semifinal match against No. 5 Northeastern (34-2-1). Their 32-5-2 record includes three losses to Minnesota and an overtime loss to both Minnesota Duluth and Wisconsin.
“We have really dove into [Northeastern's] film and their systems, we’ve been focusing on some of their key players, we know some of their key players and they’ve been recognized nationally, so it’s no secret that we have a really tough opponent,” said graduate forward Emma Maltais on their upcoming opponent.
Muzerall said that the team is fully aware that Northeastern’s top line may be the best offensive line that they’ve seen all season.
Ohio State is led in points by senior forward Jennifer Gardiner, who is a Patty Kazmaier top-10 finalist this season with 21 goals and 35 assists to her name. Sophie Jaques, a top-three finalist for the Kazmaier award for the second year in a row, is arguably the best defender in the nation and currently has a team-high of 24 goals.
The Buckeyes have a deep lineup that can find scoring on any one of its lines and Emma Maltais, Paetyn Levis, Makenna Webster, and Gabby Rosenthal all have contributed 30-plus points in 2022-23. Amanda Thiele has earned the starting netminder position for most of the season and has a .910 save percentage with a 1.92 goals-against-average to her name.
It’s quite obvious that the Buckeyes have a fiery offense and incredible special teams units. Ohio State is second in the NCAA for total goals scored (166) and goals-per-game (4.26) in 2022-23 and they have the best power-play percentage in the country right now, operating at 33.3%.
On the other hand, the penalty kill hasn’t been the sharpest as of late, at 81.4%, which could be a key to success for the other teams at the Frozen Four.
A commonly asked question of Ohio State coaches and players is how they deal with being the No. 1 team in the nation and having a target on their backs.
“From a coach's standpoint I think it’s great, because it elevates their game, because now they’re held accountable to be elite all the time, understanding you’re getting everyone’s best,” Muzerall said. “They thrive off of that, like any great athlete they want to be tested, they want to be challenged, and I think that makes it more fun for them.”
No. 1 Ohio State will faceoff against No. 5 Northeastern on at 2:30 p.m. CT Friday, March 17 at Amsoil Arena in Duluth. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+.