NCAA Women's Hockey National Championship Recap
Updated: May 1, 2022
The biggest ever NCAA tournament field wrapped up yet another Frozen Four this weekend, and did so in empathic fashion, crowning a brand new champion in Ohio State University. The game was played at Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania. Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs (UMD) and Ohio State Buckeyes (OSU) were the two finalists and played for the final cup. UMD was unranked (not within the top five teams) entering the tournament so they were required to play a first-round game whereas OSU had a first-round bye as the number 1 seed. Duluth played Harvard, Minnesota, and Northeastern on their trip to the national championship. Ohio State played Quinnipiac and Yale on their road to the national championship. Both of these teams play in the WCHA conference and have already played four games against each other this year. OSU was looking for their first national title, while UMD was looking for their sixth but first since 2010. The game was set to go either way with the regular-season series split 2-2.
The first period was very even with both teams getting some quality chances on goal. Amanda Thiele of Ohio State kept out Elizabeth Giguere after she stole the puck in the neutral zone with a kick save and Nina Jobst-Smith after a long-range shot from just inside Duluth’s offensive zone with an easy block. Emma Soderberg saved a shot from Lauren Bernard four minutes later. There was a shaky moment here as UMD’s Mannon McMahon hit Soderberg in the shoulder pad, pushing her to the ground, trying to block out OSU’s Paetyn Levis, but Soderberg was able to keep hold of the puck. Ohio State had one final big chance in the first period, with less than a minute remaining.
Clair DeGeorge picked up the puck from a pass and was able to beat her defender before passing the puck off to her teammate, Levis, but Soderberg made a sprawling save to deny an OSU attack. The period ended with 10 shots to Ohio State and 8 to Minnesota Duluth.
The second period had a lot more action than the first with two goals being scored. Ohio State went on a power play very early in the period, after Duluth’s Anna Klein was called for tripping behind the Ohio State goal. Thirty seconds into this power play, Ohio State hit the puck into their offensive zone/behind Duluth’s goal, Soderberg came out to collect the puck to try and lay it off to her defenders. There was clear and obvious miscommunication between Soderberg and her defensemen. DeGeorge was able to pick up the puck and send a backhanded pass towards the front of the net where Levis was ready to jump onto it and bury the puck into the back of the net, opening the scoring, despite being smacked into the ice by Duluth’s Naomi Rogge. This was Levis’ 24th goal of the season and sixth of the postseason. She leads Ohio State in all scoring. This goal started a burst of Ohio State chances as Levis hit the post just a minute later. Levis kept her pressure up as two minutes later, she rocketed yet another shot off the iron, this time hitting the upper corner.
With seven minutes left in the period, Duluth’s Kailee Skinner took a shot from around the blue line and it was deflected on goal by Rogge. It trickled past Ohio State’s Theile to level the scoring at 1. The puck almost looked like it was in slo-mo on this play as it so slowly rolled over the line. Ohio State had a small breakaway with a minute left in the period through Lexi Templeman before Jobst-Smith came flying in, making an amazing backcheck to deny OSU a 1v1 against Soderberg. The puck was sent back out to Riley Brengman who fired it back to Templeman who tried to turn and put it past Soderberg. Soderberg stood strong and denied a go-ahead goal for Ohio State at the end of the period. Ohio State was the driver in this period putting 20 shots on goal compared to Duluth’s five.
The third period had three goals with the game-winner being found in regulation instead of having to go to overtime to find a winner. Just 40 seconds into the period, Soderberg came all the way out of the crease to try and deny Levis who was flying in on goal. Soderberg was initially able to clear the puck out of Levis’ path but slipped on her way back to the goal, leaving an empty net for the incoming Ohio State players. DeGeorge was able to beat the three Bulldogs scrambling in front of the net to try and block any chance, putting the Buckeyes up 2-1. One minute later, Anna Klein blocked an OSU pass and was able to head onto goal with Giguere right in the middle of the ice. Klein passed the puck off to Giguere and Giguere hit the puck into the top corner past Thiele, to tie us up at 2. Anneke Linser hit a shot off the post with seven minutes left in the period. Forty seconds later, Kenzie Hauswirth of Ohio State sent a pass across the ice toward Templeman but the puck deflected off the Bulldog defender into her own net giving Ohio State the 3-2 lead with 6:40 to go in the game. Hauswirth is given credit for this goal and it marked her fifth goal of the season with four of those five coming in the last seven games. Ohio State continued pressing forward, causing Minnesota Duluth not to pull Soderberg until there were only 34 seconds left. Duluth was able to win the final faceoff of the game, with 9 seconds to go and get a shot on frame but it was sent away by Thiele and with 3 seconds remaining, there was not enough time for another good chance by Duluth. The buzzer sounded and Ohio State were the 2021-2022 national champions, winning their first-ever title.
This game made history for the whole of the sport with each team in the final game featuring all-female coaching staff. Ohio State’s head coach Nadine Muzerall’s comment after the game, "I just believed in these girls so much, as they did in each other, and I thought this was one of the best hockey games they played all year. So deserving of it, and they never quit. They played flawlessly tonight. I'm so proud of them." Ohio State’s Levis was named Most Outstanding Player after scoring in both Frozen Four games and setting a school record for most points with 11 in the postseason.
For Duluth, Naomi Rogge commented on the game saying, "I think we are trying to get our team recognized as it should be. We came out and played the top team in the nation to a 3-2 game when it was close on a couple crappy bounces in our opinion. I think we should be right up there with them and I think if anything we should be respected in that sense as well." Although Minnesota Duluth has not won a national title since 2010, they definitely deserve the right to women’s college hockey respect because they have shown time and time again that no matter what they will fight to be at the highest level possible.
This game came down to turnovers, the final pass, and sloppy defending. For UMD, they left Soderberg out to dry on the first goal, leaving her no chance to get back in the net after trying to collect the puck off the board. On the second goal, a turnover resulted in Soderberg having to come out and make the decision to try and clear the puck with Levis running onto her. The clearance wasn’t as good as it could have been but an unfortunate slip led to the second goal as none of the Duluth defenders were able to stop DeGeorge or her shot. The third goal was simply an unlucky bounce off the defenses’ skate, something that is quite common in the game of hockey and you just have to roll with it. The first goal by Duluth was the one goal in this game that came from possession of the puck and attack on goal but the second goal again came from a costly turnover by Ohio State leading to a 2v1 for Duluth giving them their second goal of the evening. This shows the high level of hockey that was being played as any small error made on either side of the puck could lead to a goal-scoring opportunity. These teams play the highest level of hockey and sometimes it comes down to an unlucky bounce as Rogge said but that’s just hockey.
Shots: Ohio State 39, Minnesota Duluth 19
Saves: Thiele (OSU) 17, Soderberg (UMD) 36
Power Play: Ohio State 1-1, Minnesota Duluth 0-0
Faceoffs: Ohio State 28, Minnesota Duluth 28