NCAA's Top Moments: Part 1

Who doesn't love a list of top moments in a season? Let's take a look at once as it pertains to the NCAA's unreal season.

NCAA's Top Moments: Part 1
The Ohio State Buckeyes celebrate their national championship win over the Wisconsin Badgers, 1-0, in Durham, NH, March 24. (Photo featured @OhioStateWHKY on X/Formerly Twitter)

I know we're all gearing up for Worlds in a few days – I'm excited too! – but before we get into gear internationally, I'd like to take this moment to look back on some of the best bits of what was ultimately an excellent NCAA hockey season. This is the first part in a two-part series looking back at some of the big and small moments that comprised yet another very entertaining, competitive year in women's college hockey.

Sanni Ahola Is Stunning for SCSU Huskies

Sanni Ahola's senior season is marked by some incredible feats: her career-best save percentage (.935), a nod for WCHA Goaltender of the Year, and a return to Team Finland for this year's IIHF World Championship are just a few. Despite splitting time in net with Jojo Chobak for St. Cloud State, she still managed to put together an incredible season with four straight shutouts in four starts, boosting her name on the radar of players to keep an eye on. It's been really awesome to see her take the opportunity and run with it, especially after a bit of an inauspicious start to her college career.

The Return of Robert Morris to CHA

Any time we lose a program, it's like a stab to the heart. That was definitely the feeling for many college hockey fans in May 2021, when Robert Morris University announced the Colonials would no longer ice a women's or men's hockey team. That heartbreak, thankfully, was short-lived, as late in December 2021, the school announced the return of both programs for the 2023-24 season.

RMU returned to the fold with a young, excited roster and a new head coach (Logan Bittle, promoted from the title of assistant), went over .500 in-conference, and ultimately lost in the CHA semis to Mercyhurst. Young talent like Alaina Giampietro and Morgan Giannone shined, while graduate transfer Chloé Puddifant earned CHA Defender of the Year honors for her excellence on the blue line. This is obviously a team rebuilding, but it's so exciting to see pieces fall in place for them.

Izzy Daniel's Triple Crown Excellence

Cornell doesn't get a lot of shine as a school, largely because they play in a conference with both Colgate and Clarkson in it. But the Big Red actually put together an excellent season, skyrocketing to the top of the Ivy League and putting up a good fight in the conference semifinals.

Izzy Daniel was a huge part of that success, with statistically her best season to date (59 points in just 34 games played) garnering her not just ECAC Player of the Year and Forward of the Year honors, but also the Patty Kazmaier Award for the top Division I athlete in women's hockey. It's an awesome feat from the senior forward, who became the first-ever Cornell player to win the award. Daniel unfortunately didn't get tabbed for Worlds, but she is undeniably a name to watch out for in the PWHL draft and beyond.

Ohio State Wins It All ... On One Goal by Joy Dunne

It's the game every college player dreams of playing, and WCHA Rookie of the Year Joy Dunne was surely not exempt from that daydream. So when the Ohio State forward had quite literally the entire NCAA championship game – a 0-0 stalemate with Wisconsin up to that point – on her stick, she didn't miss. Hannah Bilka curled across the top of the right faceoff dot and fed it perfectly to Dunne, who hit gold right over the shoulder of Badgers goalie Ava McNaughton.

It just took one, and that one by Dunne gave the Buckeyes their second title in three years on the tail of a record-setting season for the squad. It's safe to say Ohio State has cemented its status as a women's hockey school and is just one more force for the WCHA to contend with.

More DI Women's Hockey? More DI Women's Hockey.

It started with the announcement by the University of Delaware that the Blue Hens would be joining College Hockey America starting in 2025-26, this after running a highly successful club program for the past 20 years. Now, we're finally seeing movement from the University of Michigan, as the Board of Regents has called for a feasibility study for women's hockey to be offered as a DI sport. The popularity and strength of women's sports have been undeniably on the rise over the better part of the past decade, and women's hockey has especially seen a spike in visibility with the Rivalry Series and PWHL games being televised on a broad scale. Simply put, if you build it, they will come, and I'm thrilled to see Michigan finally take a step forward when it comes to icing a varsity women's hockey team.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series from Emma Sullivan, who will go into UConn, Stonehill, Beanpot, and more as we look back on the 2023-24 DI NCAA season.