For the sixth time, the NCAA Division I women’s hockey national championship game will feature an all-WCHA matchup. No. 1 Ohio State will square off against eighth-seeded Minnesota Duluth for all the marbles. The Buckeyes are going after their first title. The Bulldogs are chasing their sixth.
#1 Ohio State vs. #8 Minnesota Duluth | Sunday, March 20, at 4 p.m. ET
To get here, Minnesota Duluth took down Northeastern in double overtime, getting some sweet revenge on the Huskies after their own double OT loss at the Frozen Four last year. And Ohio State won a close contest, 2-1, against Yale, although they controlled much of the possession throughout.
The Bulldogs and Buckeyes split the regular-season series this year, winning two games apiece, and did not meet in the WCHA playoffs. Interestingly, the first series was a pretty high-scoring affair for the two squads, while the second series in January was more tempered in terms of offense. UMD actually shut out Ohio State, 1-0, that weekend, before the Buckeyes rebounded with a 3-1 win.
I think each team’s style should make this a really exciting title bout. Neither team is particularly shy about pushing up offensively. Ohio State is a little more stacked with talent throughout their lineup, but the Bulldogs absolutely play with an attacking mentality as well, and similar to the Buckeyes, they try and build from the back end. Their D get involved regularly in the rush and in offensive zone plays. They are clearly two well-matched teams, and both are playing their best hockey of the season.
Keys for Ohio State: Neutralizing Minnesota Duluth’s top unit will be important, as that will surely be a focus the other way around, and OSU may have an edge when it comes to depth. We already know what the Buckeyes are capable of offensively, but those matchups will be key to deciding a game like this. Ohio State did an excellent job of smothering Yale on Friday night—often, Yale could connect on one or maybe two passes, but couldn’t build from there because Ohio State would force a turnover. The shutdown mentality has to be the same against Minnesota Duluth.
Keys for Minnesota Duluth: The Bulldogs really need their penalty kill to continue to hold up. On the year, they have not been strong on the penalty kill—it clocks in at a sub-.80% success rate—but they’ve only given up one PP goal to Ohio State all year. And against Northeastern in the semifinal game, UMD only took one penalty and successfully killed it off.
And a quick note that is a possible key for both teams: I’m sort of being facetious when I say this, but I feel like Minnesota Duluth doesn’t want to score first, since the Buckeyes have had so much success coming from behind this postseason. They erased a 2-0 deficit in the third period of the WCHA title game. They defeated Quinnipiac in the quarterfinals after going down 1-0. They defeated Yale in the semifinals after going down 1-0. Ohio State comes into this game holding the No. 1 ranking, but they still love playing with a chip on their shoulders and they grab a lot of momentum from erasing leads and swinging games their way. That’s definitely something to watch.
Players to Watch
Ohio State: Riley Brengman, Sophomore, Defender
Brengman is an important piece of the Buckeyes’ blue line and has put together a really nice tournament so far. She scored a goal in the victory over Quinnipiac to help the team advance to the Frozen Four, and assisted on both goals on Friday night against Yale. She’ll also play an important role in dictating pace, breaking up the Bulldogs’ chances, and getting plays turned back the other way for the Buckeyes.
Minnesota Duluth: Naomi Rogge, Redshirt Senior, Forward
Rogge is part of a senior class that has helped lead the Bulldogs firmly back into national title contention. She’s a reliable scorer and contributor for their team. Although she went a little quiet on the score sheet in the postseason up until now, she had two big points in the win over Northeastern, including the overtime winner to send Minnesota Duluth to their first title game since 2010.