NCAA Women's Hockey: The Ohio State Buckeyes are 2024 National Champions
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NCAA Women's Hockey: The Ohio State Buckeyes are 2024 National Champions

NCAA Women's Hockey: The Ohio State Buckeyes are 2024 National Champions by Nicole Haase

Ohio State played the whole season with a chip on their shoulder after losing the 2023 title game 1-0 to Wisconsin. The team came together as a tight-knit group - like family, rookie Joy Dunne said - so much so that even the players who weren't on the team last year felt the resentment and desire to win the 2024 championship. The fire was fueled even more when Wisconsin handed OSU their only losses in the 2024 calendar year, including a decisive 6-3 win in the WCHA Tournament Championship game.

They silenced those demons with a revenge win Sunday night as the Buckeyes took down Wisconsin 1-0. Barnes chased down what looked to be a Britta Curl breakaway, stealing the puck and immediately staring off on offense. She passed to Bilka, who left the puck for Joy Dunne. Her wrister beat Ava McNaughton to score the game's only goal.

The Buckeyes are proud. They have swagger and they still feel a bit like underdogs - like they get disrespected. They don't have the storied history of some programs - they were a sub-.500 team when Nadine Muzerall took over in 2016. But they're trying to build one. They play in a rink built in 1961 that seats 1,400 people, requires fans to go to the stadium next door to use the bathroom and has the visiting locker room down a set of stairs. Before they were a winning program, getting players to commit to Ohio State was a hard sell.

Muzerall took them to their first Frozen Four in 2018 and they won their first national championship in 2022. And while she was thrilled to win that title, she worried about being known as a one-and-done team that couldn't recreate that magic. She had been 0-2 against Wisconsin in the Frozen Four, losing to them in the semifinals in 2021 and again last season.

Before the celebrating was even over, Muzerall was talking about winning a third title and telling her staff and the student athletes sitting next to her that they can't become complacent. Even in the afterglow of the win, coach was reminding her players of the hard work they put in across the season to put themselves back on top.

OSU was built on transfer students - 10 of the 23 women started their career elsewhere. Players like Cayla Barnes and Hannah Bilka, they were taking advantage of the bonus year Covid gave to get one last shot at a title. For other, they joined the Buckeyes in the middle of their career for more opportunities, different coaching and a chance to play the best players on the biggest stage NCAA NC Ice Hockey has.

After a mental lapse from the Buckeyes led to a slow start for them in the semifinal, OSU showed no nerves and it was instead the Badgers who didn't quite seem to have their head in the game. Wisconsin seemed off all evening as they failed to complete passes and struggled with possession. Even when they pulled their goalie to be 6-on-5, they could not get set up or muster much dangerous with the extra attacker.

The longer the game went on scoreless between the top two teams in the country, it was clear that they belonged in the title game and that it would come down to one bounce or one play. Dunne and she did not miss.

The win was a triumph of the hard work the Buckeyes put in all season. They did reps until the work became second-nature. That's what they relied on when they were back on their heels against Clarkson and what put a rookie like Dunne in a position to perfectly place her goals from Friday and Sunday. Variations on her mid-range wrist shot, the shot was about using the limited area the goalie gives you to place the shot.

Raygan Kirk earned a shutout against a team scoring more than five goals per game on offense. She went from backup to the backup and on the outs at Robert Morris to the Most Outstanding player of the tournament in less than a year. Her perseverance and willingness to put in the work gave her the opportunity to earn the top goalie spot this season and she delivered in the clutch.

2024 Women’s Frozen Four All-Tournament Team

F Kirsten Simms Wisconsin
F Makenna Webster Ohio State
F Joy Dunne Ohio State
D Cayla Barnes Ohio State
D Caroline Harvey Wisconsin
G Raygan Kirk Ohio State

G Raygan Kirk Ohio State