Ohio State women's hockey advances to the Frozen Four, beats Quinnipiac in NCAA Tournament

Colin Gay
The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State defenseman Madison Bizal and the Buckeyes have advanced to their third-straight Frozen Four with a regional final win against Quinnipiac.

Quinnipiac women’s hockey was never going to make it easy on Ohio State

Heading into the NCAA Tournament regional final Saturday, Bobcats fifth-year forward Lexie Adzija and her teammates couldn’t shake the feelings of a season ago, when they lost to the eventual national champions in double-overtime on their own ice. 

“It’s unfinished business,” Adzija said Friday. “It’s fuel to the fire.”

So the Buckeyes knew they needed to “unload.” 

They did just that, and in Ohio State’s (32-5-2) first game of the NCAA Tournament, OSU proved too much for Quinnipiac (30-10), beating the Bobcats 5-2 to earn a third-straight trip to the Frozen Four. 

"It's not going to be any guarantees and certainties," Ohio State coach Nadine Muzerall said. "I thought it was a great playoff hockey game of what we expected with physicality and speed."

The Buckeyes will take on Northeastern in the NCAA Tournament semifinal Friday in Duluth, Minnesota. 

Ohio State has seven wins in seven meetings against Quinnipiac. The Buckeyes' victory Saturday is only their second against the Bobcats decided by more than one goal.

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But Ohio State's dominance didn't start right away.

Quinnipiac struck first, scoring on a goal by Kendall Cooper after Ohio State senior forward Kenzie Hauswirth and senior defenseman Lauren Bernard gave the Bobcats nearly four-straight minutes of power play time.

For Ohio State senior defenseman Sophie Jaques, it was just nervousness, trying to force things that were not there in the first 15 minutes.

For Muzerall, that nervousness did not indicate that Ohio State was rattled. She said the Buckeyes had one of the better weeks of practice she's seen this season, showing they were ready for tournament play.

"You could be in this game, I don’t care what sport you’re at or how many times you’ve been in this heat, there are nerves," Muzerall said. "It’s just adrenaline. It’s because you have so much [passion and love for the game and the will to win. That gets you excited. 

"You’re not nervous because you’re not ready. You’re nervous because you want it so bad."

In the second period, Ohio State woke up, recording 24 shots on goal in the second period, and scoring an unassisted power-play tally when fifth-year senior Gabby Rosenthal found the net before senior defenseman Lauren Bernard then gave Ohio State a 2-1 lead four minutes later with another unassisted goal. 

Ohio State finished with 43 shots on goal.

"They are a great team, and they had a great goalie and she was playing really well," Rosenthal said. "So I think that was definitely a focus for us to get to the net and get those rebounds. In the first and into the second, we knew that those rebounds were coming, and we’re a talented team, so we just have to use our shot when we have it."

As a result of their onslaught in the second period, Ohio State silenced Quinnipiac’s offense, limiting the Bobcats to three shots after out-shooting the Buckeyes 12-10 in the first period. 

Ohio State secured the win with an Emma Peschel goal eight minutes into the third period off a miss by sixth-year senior Emma Maltais before fifth-year senior Sophie Jaques scored the Buckeyes' fourth goal on a power play with less than five minutes to go, assisted by Makenna Webster and Jennifer Gardiner.

Jaques added an empty-net goal with 28.8 seconds left in the game, marking her seventh multi-score game of the 2022-23 season.

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

Junior goalkeeper Amanda Thiele finished with 21 saves on 23 shots.

Thanks to its win against Quinnipiac, Ohio State has six victories in eight NCAA Tournament appearances, last losing in the 2021 Frozen Four semifinals to Wisconsin. 

And with a trip to Duluth ahead for Ohio State, Rosenthal is confident, knowing that what the Buckeyes have cultivated with each practice and each game is enough to find success.

"We are confident in ourselves," Rosenthal said. "When we stick to our game and play our game, I think we’re unstoppable."

Ohio State will take on Northeastern in the Frozen Four semifinals at AMSOIL Arena 3:30 p.m. Friday.