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Dec. 20, 2016

This season we have been publishing feature stories on select players in our home game programs. Through the first half of the season we have profiled five Ohio State women’s hockey players in these stories. This week we’ll be posting one each day so you can have a chance to catch up on the wonderful stories behind some of your favorite Buckeyes

*Each story will be posted as it was written for that given weekend. Because of that, some information (records, statistics, etc.) will be outdated.

Earlier this week, Kassidy Sauve earned WCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors for the second time this season. The award came after she made 90 total saves over the course of the weekend series against No. 2 Minnesota, the most any goalie in the NCAA has made this season over the course of a two-game series. She’s also second on that list with the 81 saves she made in the series against Wisconsin a few weeks ago.

Last Friday’s tilt was the first home game of the season for Ohio State, and its first game at OSU Ice Rink since the end of last season (February 20, for reference).

For Sauve, it had been much longer.

The Whitby, Ontario native started 20 games during her freshman season in 2014-15, earning WCHA All-Rookie distinction after a fantastic year. Her 1.98 goals against average put her in the Top 15 in the nation; she was one of just three freshmen goalies to average less than two goals allowed per game. Her save percentage (.925) put her in the Top 20 as well.

But it was way back in her first collegiate game that she felt something wrong. Sliding across the crease to defend a shot against Wisconsin on October 10, 2014, Sauve felt intense pain in her left hip. The pain kept coming back and she was sent to take both an X-ray and MRI to get a better idea of what was going on in her troublesome hip.

The results showed extra bone mass forming on the head of her femur. Whereas a typical ball and socket joint provides smooth multidirectional movement, the extra bone mass on the head of the femur was impeding in that process, causing the pain Sauve was feeling. The medical term for what she was experiencing is Femoroacetabular Impingement (FAI).

On June 17, 2015, Sauve had surgery on her left hip to remove the extra bone mass and repair her labrum, a procedure that is followed up with a 6-9 month recovery period, typically. Sauve found herself towards the longer end of that time period for an unfortunate reason: when she started making her way back, her right hip started giving her problems.

Sauve met with the surgeon upon returning to Columbus prior to the 2015-16 academic year and it was determined the same issue was occurring in her right hip. Surgery was scheduled for November 30, 2015. All told, Sauve was under the knife for roughly seven hours combined between the two procedures.

Now that both of her hips had been operated on, work began on getting Sauve ready to return to the ice. That work took her all the way up to earlier this year when she returned to Columbus in August, upon which she was cleared to resume hockey activities.

Fast forward to September 30 and the team’s season-opener against Rensselaer, a game the Buckeyes won 4-1. Sauve made 34 saves in that contest, her first action since February 28, 2015.

“It was really emotional for me,” Sauve said about her first game back from injury. “Usually I’m not the most emotional person but I shed a few tears.

“After the second surgery it got to the point where I didn’t know if I’d be able to make it back to where I was,” Sauve continued. “So to share the moment with this team was special. I had 21 teammates rooting for me, I had past teammates rooting for me to get better and stronger, and to be able to play hockey. The girls that have been around since the beginning and saw everything I went through, they knew how big the moment was. It was just a breathtaking moment. I look back on it and I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to come back and play for this team again.”

Not only is Sauve back to playing hockey, she’s been exceptional during the first month of the season. She’s made at least 30 saves in each game this season and has topped 40 saves twice, including 55 against Minnesota on Oct. 22. Her save percentage of .953 is fifth-best in the entire country, made more impressive by the fact that she’s faced 320 shots, the most of any goalie by far. She has started every game for Ohio State, including the 1-1 tie with No. 1 Wisconsin and the 3-1 win over No. 8 Bemidji State.

Her numbers after the season-opening series against RPI were phenomenal: .985 save percentage, 67 saves, and just one goal allowed. Those marks propelled her to her first WCHA Defensive Player of the Week win of the year, in her first game action in well over a year.

“I owe that one to my strength coach for this summer,” Sauve said of her play so far this season despite missing so much time.” He made sure I was good to go for this year.”

Sauve also credits her parents, surgeon, teammates, and coaches for helping her through the entire process, from that first painful revelation to her first game back between the pipes.

Her end goal as a hockey player is to be a member of the Canadian national team, but right now she wants to stay focused on every shot, every save, every time she gets to lace up her skates and put on her Scarlet and Gray sweater.

“Now it’s more about enjoying every moment I get to play hockey,” Sauve said. “Because I’ve had it taken away from me and I know what that feels like. I want every hockey memory to be a great one.”