Feb. 26, 2017
Grand Forks, N.D.— Ohio State played one of its best games of the season, dominating play in the first and third periods, but an overtime goal from North Dakota ended the Buckeyes season at Ralph Englestad Arena on Sunday afternoon where OSU fell 2-1 to the Fighting Hawks. They’ll finish the 2016-17 season with a record of 14-18-5.
“That was by far the best game we’ve played,” head coach Nadine Muzerall said. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t come away with a win. Everyone played well on every line today.”
“I told them I was honored to have had the opportunity to coach them and more honored to have gotten to know them this year,” Muzerall continued when asked about Sunday’s game. “Everyone knows the amount of adversity this team has been through but they went out there and wore their hearts on their sleeves. I can’t say enough how proud I am to be the head coach of this team.”
Sunday’s rubber match between the Buckeyes and Fighting Hawks determined who would head to Minneapolis for the WCHA Final Face-Off. After tying the game up in the third period and completely dominating UND for those final 20 minutes of regulation, it almost seemed inevitable that Ohio State would take the lead and come out on top. But the teams were still tied after sixty minutes of hockey, and North Dakota was able to close things out with a goal 9:04 into the extra frame.
“We were so close to achieving one of our biggest long-term goals this season,” said goaltender Kassidy Sauve. “It really hurts to have that taken away, we battled so hard and relentlessly. I am proud of every single one of my teammates and I know we wish we could have done more for our two seniors that won’t get a chance to wear the Scarlet and Gray again. You let a moment like this sting for a while and always come back stronger afterwards.”
Sophomore Maddy Field was the one who scored the goal for the Buckeyes today. Shot after shot was fired at the North Dakota net and, after the Fighting Hawks continuously failed to get the puck out of their own zone, Julianna Iafallo found Field wide open right near the net, and the sophomore buried her 14th goal of the year with ease to tie the game at 1-1.
In net Sauve made 31 saves to bring her season total to 1,135 which is the sixth most in a single season in NCAA history. She set the Ohio State single-season record on Saturday and she has been fantastic really since day one of the season. Considering the fact that she missed all of the 2015-16 season with an injury, Sauve had a remarkable 2016-17 season.
“Like I’ve been saying all season, she’s the backbone of this team and she’s absolutely deserving of the record she set yesterday,” Muzerall said of her goaltender. “If coaches and teams around the country don’t already know the kind of goaltender she is, they need to start paying attention. She’s an All-American and I believe she should’ve been a Patty Kazmaier finalist as well.”
“Losing in overtime is never a fun way to go out,” Field said about the overtime loss. “Our team was so close to achieving something this program hasn’t done in a while and to lose it in such a tough way is tremendously heartbreaking. I am so incredibly proud of how we played today, it was clear we were wearing our hearts on our sleeves and playing to win.”
This was the fifth game in a row in which these two teams played each other, the first time Ohio State has done that against any team. Taking into account the familiarity these two teams had after playing five times in a little over a week, Muzerall isn’t surprised this series went three games with two overtime finishes. After all, it was the 4/5 matchup and Ohio State had taken seven of the 12 points during the regular season.
The Buckeyes killed off both penalties on the day to bring their season penalty kill to .902, easily the best in school history.
After being outshot by significant margins in the first two games, OSU kept things pretty close in that regard, getting 29 shots on net compared to North Dakota’s 33. In that aforementioned Scarlet and Gray third period, the Buckeyes peppered Lexie Shaw with 14 shots and played with a level of intensity that the Fighting Hawks had no hope of matching. While the result may not have been what they wanted, these Buckeyes can hold their heads high knowing they fought until the very end.
“I want to thank Katie Matheny and Breanne Grant for everything they have done for this program,” Muzerall said of her two seniors. “They have helped us get headed in the right direction and we will miss them dearly. They have been hard-working and respectful members of this team and the kind of people you can lean on when you need to. They will forever be Buckeyes.”
One thing is for certain no matter who you talk to around this program: this team is just getting started, and a bright future awaits Ohio State women’s hockey.
“We had a lot of people back in Columbus rooting for us,” Muzerall said, “and I want to especially thank Athletics Director Gene Smith and Senior Associate Athletics Director Diana Sabau for all the support they have given us this year. There has been a real change in this program and we’re making real progress, and they have had an enormous hand in that.”
“This group of girls has been through so much adversity this season, with many expecting little from us however we were relentless and on a mission to prove people wrong,” Field said. “I told all the returning players to remember the feeling we felt after the game and take that into every second of off season training and bring it into next year. I am so proud to be a Buckeye and things will only go up from here.”