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Wisconsin Women’s Hockey Buries #1 Ohio State in Final Faceoff



Wisconsin Women's Hockey defender Carolina Harvey, seen celebrating the game-winning-goal in the 2023 Frozen Four semifinals

Wisconsin women’s hockey captured a WCHA Final Faceoff championship game berth thanks to some late-game heroics yesterday against Minnesota. The ensuing championship matchup between the country’s top-ranked team, Ohio State, and the second-ranked Badgers was the fifth meeting between the teams this season. The Buckeyes held a 3-1 series advantage in the regular season. Postseason play is a different beast, though.

In its final game before the NCAA Tournament, Wisconsin showcased its offense. Led by several of the country’s top scorers, the Badgers gave the Buckeyes more than they could handle.

Revised Lineup Sparks Hot Start for the Badgers

Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson made a surprise lineup move for the championship game. He moved top-line right wing Kirsten Simms and center Casey O’Brien to the second unit with Laila Edwards. As a result, Lacey Eden moved up to play on the opposite wing from Britta Curl, with freshman Cassie Hall centering. Although a bit of a surprise move, Wisconsin quickly proved Johnson’s prowess as the all-time winningest women’s college hockey coach.

Simms showcased her speed and put the Badgers on the board early. After Simms beat the Ohio State defenders, O’Brien, Simms’ fellow finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award, fed Simms the puck on a rope. The sophomore scored on the ensuing breakaway with a crafty backhand shot to make it 1-0.

Not to be outdone by her fellow sophomore, Edwards made it 2-0 three minutes later. Skating into the offensive zone with a ton of time and space on the left wing, the Cleveland Heights native caught Buckeyes goaltender Raygan Kirk by surprise when she went short-side. The shot gave Wisconsin two goals on its first three shots.

Wisconsin Women’s Hockey Barrages Buckeyes in Second Period

The Buckeyes got on the board first in the second period, but it was all Badgers the rest of the way. The scoring started thanks to a suffocating power play. Wisconsin boasts the fourth-most successful power play in the country and put it on full display. UW attempted nine shots with the advantage, but Wisconsin sophomore defender Caroline Harvey had five shots blocked by the Buckeyes penalty kill. Despite keeping the puck in the Ohio State defensive end the entire power play, it appeared Wisconsin might come away empty. Finally, Edwards broke through for her second goal of the game.

Two and a half minutes later, O’Brien finally joined her teammates with her own goal. Ohio State’s defense lost the WCHA Forward of the Year finalist, who found herself as wide open as a skater can be in the slot. Simms centered the puck from the right wing, and O’Brien quickly stickhandled and beat Kirk five-hole for a 4-1 lead, prompting an Ohio State timeout.

Badgers Add Additional Special Teams Goal

Wisconsin women’s hockey captain Curl capped off the three-goal barrage in the closing minutes of the middle frame. With the Badgers on the penalty kill, the graduate student stole the puck and was alone from UW’s defensive end to the opposing goal. With no Buckeyes defenders in sight, Curl beat Kirk with a quick shot blocker side for a 5-1 lead.

Badgers Protect Lead in Third Period to Defeat Buckeyes

It did not take long for Wisconsin to extend its lead again. Jocelyn Amos put the Buckeyes on the penalty kill with a goal-saving tripping penalty, but it ultimately did not stop the Badgers. O’Brien took advantage of a perfectly set screen by Curl to score her second goal of the game.

Ohio State tallied a pair of third-period goals, but it was too late to spark a comeback. Wisconsin women’s hockey held on for the 6-3 victory and the WCHA Final Faceoff championship.

Wisconsin Women’s Hockey to Learn its NCAA Tournament Fate

The matchup between the country’s top two teams was just an appetizer for what is yet to come. Ohio State won the WCHA conference regular season title. Wisconsin won the WCHA Final Faceoff tournament title. Now, both seek the ultimate prize: the national title.

The Badgers and Buckeyes met in last year’s national championship game and might be on a collision course to meet again. On Sunday, the NCAA Tournament bracket will be revealed. You can watch the selection show at 11:00 AM central on ESPNews.

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BadgerNotes' resident college basketball sicko, Kedrick Stumbris covers Wisconsin Badgers men's basketball and women's hockey teams unlike anyone else. He received his B.A. with economics and political science majors from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018 and has had his work published on Bleacher Report and Verbal Commits.