Dec. 19, 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 will be outdated.

For someone so young, Jincy Dunne’s journey has been well told.

As a prep hockey star from O’Fallon, Missouri, Dunne quickly rose through the ranks all the way up to the U.S. Women’s National Team. She was one of the final cuts prior to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, a testament to the kind of talent she possesses on the ice.

Despite falling just short of Olympic status, Dunne has enjoyed a great deal of success playing for USA Hockey. She played in three U18 IIHF World Championships from 2013-15 and her overtime goal against Canada lifted the U.S. to its first U18 gold medal in four years.

Coming to Ohio State prior to the 2015-16 season, expectations were understandably high. However those expectations turned into uncertainty; a head injury sustained by Dunne left her unable to play hockey, her on-ice future becoming a big question mark.

Dunne didn’t suit up at all last season, instead she was trying to recover from the lingering symptoms brought on by her injury. It wasn’t until the end of this past summer that she got the okay from her doctors to resume her playing career.

“I was just so ready to go,” Dunne said. “My body wasn’t there yet, but my mind was ready.”

And so on September 30, over a year since she had played in a hockey game, Dunne donned the Scarlet and Gray for the first time against Rensselaer. In her first period of collegiate hockey, she blasted her first goal by the RPI goalie.

“It was a little bit nerve-wracking at first,” she said of playing in her first game. “But once I was out there it was just great. It was so nice to be on the ice again.”

Her return to the ice attracted attention from all over the hockey world. Sports Illustrated reached out to do an interview. ESPN personality John Buccigross gave her a shout out on Twitter. Everyone was happy to see Dunne back in a hockey uniform.

“For me personally it’s so humbling that they think my story is something to pay attention to,” Dunne said of the attention she has received. “I just hope with that little bit of pedestal that I can realize how blessed I’ve been so far in my life. I couldn’t do any of this without the coaches I’ve had, my teammates, siblings, and parents too.”

Dunne and the rest of the Buckeyes have played to a 3-2-1 record so far this young season, including a tie against No. 1 Wisconsin and a 3-1 win over No. 8 Bemidji State. Head coach Nadine Muzerall and associate head coach Jess Koizumi have done an excellent job guiding the team throughout the first month of the season, their first as coaches at Ohio State.

“It’s really exciting,” Dunne said of her team’s start. “Our success is a process, we’re really looking to build something great. We’re building a great culture, great environment, and we’re going to build a great program. I’m just really excited to be a part of that. I can speak for all 22 of us when I say that we’re grateful for the coaches we have.”

So far this season Dunne has skated on the top defensive line in every game, totaling three points (one goal, two assists) and a +2 rating on the ice. Her 11 blocked shots are among the most on the team. They’re excellent numbers, even without taking into consideration how much time she’s missed. And missing time comes with rust, something she acknowledged she’s still working to shake off.

“It’s frustrating of course,” Dunne said of not being 100 percent ready physically upon her return from injury. “You’ve waited so long and you want to go out there and perform at your best, but it’s very unrealistic. I just have to remember to step back and not be so hard on myself. That’s why I’m just trying to enjoy every second of the process. I have to enjoy the process of getting back to where I was, and face the struggles, and knock off the rust. Going through that also made me aware of what doesn’t come as naturally. So when I’m back to where I was, or maybe even better than before, I can focus on those details that don’t come as naturally and work to become better in those areas.”

As she answers these questions she speaks thoughtfully and clearly, she stands confidently, and she shows the charisma one might not expect from a college student-athlete. And with each answer she gives, she never forgets to show gratitude for everything that life has given her.

“I’m just grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to come back from an injury like I did,” Dunne said. “I’m grateful that I’ve had so much support along the way, and I’m grateful to finally be here with such a great group of girls.”

The journey of Jincy Dunne may be well told, but more important than that is the fact that her journey is just beginning.