Ohio State defenseman Sophie Jaques, a Kazmaier finalist, leads Buckeyes into Frozen Four

Bill Rabinowitz
The Columbus Dispatch
With 59 points (21 goals, 38 assists), senior defenseman Sophie Jaques leads the Ohio State women's hockey team in scoring.

The goal was merely to earn a college scholarship.

Growing up in Toronto, that's what Sophie Jaques aspired to achieve in her hockey career. The same for her parents, Peter and Cindy.

Beyond that, who could have predicted what she would become?

No. 1 Ohio State is in the Frozen Four for the second straight year as it prepares to play No. 5 Yale on Friday in State College, Pennsylvania. It has been a team effort. That’s the nature of hockey, and the hallmark of this Buckeye team is its depth.

News:Ohio State women's hockey team beats Quinnipiac 4-3 in 2 overtimes in NCAA quarterfinals

But Jaques (pronounced Jakes) is the clear star. With 59 points (21 goals, 38 assists), the senior leads the Buckeyes in scoring, which is rare for a defenseman.

Sophie Jaques: 'Success I've had has just made the experience that much more fun and exciting'

Jaques had the game-winning goal in overtime to beat host Minnesota in the WCHA Final Faceoff championship. On Saturday in the NCAA quarterfinals at the OSU Ice Rink, she had a goal and an assist in Ohio State’s 4-3 double-overtime victory over Quinnipiac.

If the Buckeyes are to win its first national title in program history, Jaques likely will play a key role. Buckeyes coach Nadine Muzerall has lobbied for her to win the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award given to the best player in Division I women’s hockey.

“I definitely think it's exceeded my expectations,” Jaques said of her Buckeyes career. “Growing up, getting a scholarship to play hockey at the Division I level was the goal, so I was very happy to just achieve that. To have the success I've had has just made the experience that much more fun and exciting.”

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Jaques started skating at age 4 or 5 at the Swansea outdoor ice rink on the west side of Toronto.

“The weather can get cold, but you never had to take her off the ice,” Peter Jaques said. “She never had any complaints. She always wanted to do it.”

She played on boys teams until junior high.

“There were girls teams, but there weren't as many in the area, so I think playing boys allowed me to play more hockey while I was younger and develop quicker,” Jaques said.

Ohio State defenseman Sophie Jaques is up for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, one of the top honors in college women's hockey.

Jaques thriving at Ohio State University

Growing up in Canada, all Jaques knew about Ohio State was its football team. But she felt at home during her recruiting visit and was impressed by the hockey program as well as OSU’s academics. She is a Scholar-Athlete as a civil engineering major and even serves as a teaching assistant.

Jaques led all OSU rookies as a freshman with 21 points and made the WCHA All-Rookie team and was a third-team All-American last year. But she only had two goals and two assists in the COVID-abbreviated 20-game season last year, so even she has been surprised by this season’s scoring explosion.

“At the start of the year, I never would have expected this,” Jaques said. “Honestly, I think a lot of my points have come from defensive plays and just moving the puck up quickly.”

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But Jaques is adept at picking her spots to attack the net, confident that her teammates will cover for her when she’s aggressive.

"The puck is like a magnet on her stick,” said center Clair DeGeorge, who had the game-winning goal against Quinnipiac. “It's always with her. She finds lanes. She drives to the net. As a defenseman, that's so hard to do, and she has all the confidence to do it, which is also huge. Being able to play with her has been an honor of mine.”

What Muzerall appreciates as much as Jaques’ production is Jaques' demeanor.

“Talk about calm and collected,” she said. “Her pulse must be like 40 beats per minute. She is just steady Eddie and very cool. When you have your best player, your leader, leading quietly and calmly, I think people follow because there's that reassurance like, ‘Yeah, we got this. We're OK.’ ”

Ohio State defenseman Sophie Jaques scored the game-winning goal in overtime of the Buckeyes 3-2 Final Faceoff championship win over Minnesota.

Buckeyes coach Nadine Muzerall optimistic Jaques will win Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award

No Buckeye has won the Kazmaier, and Harvard’s Angela Ruggiero is the only defenseman to win the award, and that was in 2004. But Muzerall is optimistic about Jaques’ chances. After all, she is the best player on the top-ranked team.

Jaques is tied for third in points among Division I players. No other defenseman ranks in the top-50 in goals, and only two others are top-50 in points.

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“Sophie Jaques embodies the entire Patty Kazmaier award,” Muzerall said. “We know what she's done athletically. She embodies the academic side with a 3.7 GPA as a civil engineer who's also a TA and teaches classes on Wednesdays. And she's heavily involved in our community as well. She gives back. There's not a box that Sophie Jaques doesn't check athletically, academically and in the community, other than the fact that she's a defenseman.”

Jaques is one of 10 finalists for the award.

“Just to be a finalist among all the great players that have done it, I'm just very honored,” she said. “But definitely it would be really exciting to win the award.”

Jaques family proud of Ohio State defender

For her parents, who put her on skates and then watched her blossom, it's a special time.

"I view her as a hard-working humble person that I wouldn't say has had things just given to her," Peter Jaques said. "She's worked for them. Whether it be hockey, job opportunities, success in school, she's earned the things she's been able to achieve."

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But not even her parents expected her to be a finalist for the Kazmaier on a title-contending team.

"We had hoped for her to be successful, and we had hoped for her team to be successful," Cindy Jaques said. "So it would truly be an honor, but I don't think it was anything that we ever planned for."

Ohio State's Sophie Jaques had a goal and an assist to help beat Quinnipiac 4-3 in double-overtime at the OSU Ice Rink Saturday, earning the Buckeyes a spot in the Frozen Four.

Jaques on national championship: 'This is the goal for us, and to win the first one would just be crazy'

Jaques' OSU career won't end this weekend. She intends to play a season as a graduate student as she pursues her master's next year.

But her priority now is to win the national championship that has so far eluded the Buckeyes. They were confident they would win it two years ago when the pandemic forced the cancellation of the NCAA tournament. They lost in the semifinals last year.

“This is the goal for us,” Jaques said, “and to win the first one would just be crazy.”

Bill Rabinowitz covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at brabinowitz@dispatch.com or on Twitter @brdispatch.

Ohio State vs Yale

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Penn State's Pegula Ice Rink

Watch: ESPN+

Rankings:

  • Ohio State No. 1
  • Yale No. 5

Records:

  • Ohio State (30-6-0, 21-6-0 WCHA)
  • Yale (26-8-1, 16-5-1 ECAC)