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Women’s Ice Hockey: No. 1 Buckeyes defeat No. 8 Quinnipiac, earn spot in NCAA Frozen Four

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The No. 1 Ohio State women’s ice hockey team sets its sights on the Frozen Four after prevailing over No. 8 Quinnipiac, securing a 5-2 win Saturday in the NCAA Tournament regional final. Credit: Katie Good | Asst. Photo Editor

The No. 1 Ohio State women’s ice hockey team sets its sights on the Frozen Four after prevailing over No. 8 Quinnipiac, securing a 5-2 win Saturday in the NCAA Tournament regional final.

The home-ice victory came behind the efforts of three defensemen and one forward who pushed the Buckeyes (31-5-2, 15-1-2 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) beyond the Bobcats (30-9-0, 17-5-0 Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference) in the regional final for the second year in a row.

The team’s efforts have earned the Buckeyes a spot in the Frozen Four, which will mark Ohio State’s third-consecutive appearance and commence next weekend in Duluth, Minnesota.

“I thought it was a great playoff hockey game of what we expected with physicality and speed,” head coach Nadine Muzerall said. “You can’t go into battle and think you’re not going to win, right? You want to play like you have to win, not play trying not to lose.”

The opening frame saw almost 19 scoreless minutes until junior defenseman Kendall Cooper capitalized on the Bobcats’ second consecutive power play opportunity, putting Quinnipiac at a one-score advantage heading into the second period.

“I think we played a little tentative at first and then they got that first goal. I think it was a wake-up call for all of us,” Muzerall said. “I felt like we played a little bit on our heels, and I think our neutral zone was a little passive. We needed to tighten that up knowing that they were trying to use the width of the ice on their breakouts.”

Cooper’s sixth goal of the season kept the Bobcats ahead for the first 12 minutes of play into the second period until graduate forward Gabby Rosenthal found the back of the net, her 21st goal of the season scored on a power play at 12:12.

Muzerall said Rosenthal’s goal gave the Buckeyes a crucial confidence boost heading into the remainder of the frame, and Rosenthal reiterated her point.

“We just wanted to put as much pressure as possible on that power play,” Rosenthal said. “For me, personally, I just wanted to focus on making sure I would get out there for a rebound.”

Just under four minutes later, senior defenseman Lauren Bernard continued the Buckeyes’ momentum as she lit the lamp for the third time this season at 16:00.

“I was very impressed with how they rallied the last two periods,” Muzerall said. “Especially that second period, outshooting a really good opponent 24-3 in national quarterfinals says a lot about our team.”

At 8:08 in the final frame, freshman defenseman Emma Peschel increased the score to 3-1 after she fired in a rebound shot for her sixth goal of the season.

Just over six minutes later, the Buckeyes saw another opportunity to score after the Bobcats received a penalty for tripping. Graduate defenseman Sophie Jaques was the one to seal the deal, earning her 23rd goal of the season at 14:45.

“Once we found back to our ways and were able to get pucks through, we had a lot more success,” Jaques said.

In one final attempt to tighten the gap, Quinnipiac traded graduate goaltender Logan Angers for an extra skater on the ice, a move that enabled junior defenseman Maddy Samoskevich to score and bring the score to 4-2 with less than four minutes left.

Despite the initial payoff of the offensive choice, it allowed Jaques to send the puck across the ice and into an empty net with just 28 seconds left. Jaques’ 24th goal of the season earned her the record for most goals by a defenseman in WCHA conference history.

“She’s a dime a dozen,” Muzerall said. “She’s had consistent years of domination. Over 100 points in two years, that’s just unheard of.”

Following today’s 5-2 victory, the Buckeyes will take on Northeastern next weekend in the Frozen Four semifinals for a chance to return to the championship game and defend their title.

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