Because they are both in the WCHA, Ohio State and Minnesota Duluth have faced off four different times this season. The Buckeyes won two. The Bulldogs won two.
In their fifth meeting, the stakes are much higher than just winning the season series — the national championship is on the line.
They will play for the fifth and final time this season on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET on ESPNU. For Minnesota Duluth, this is its first national championship appearance since 2010. This is Ohio State's first title appearance ever.
BRACKET 2022: Click on the 2022 women's tournament bracket
Let's dive into the three things to keep an eye on in Sunday's final.
Emma Soderberg’s terrific play for Minnesota Duluth
Minnesota Duluth is on a run every lower-seeded college hockey team dreams of.
The Bulldogs opened the tournament with a 4-0 win over Harvard. Then they upset No. 2 Minnesota with a 2-1 victory and most recently took down No. 3 Northeastern, 2-1, to advance to the national championship.
The one constant through the three wins: Goalie Emma Soderberg.
EMMA SODERBERG... with the HUGE glove save for @UMDWHockey!! 🚫— NCAA Ice Hockey (@NCAAIceHockey) March 18, 2022
🎥 ESPN+ x #WFrozenFour pic.twitter.com/8e5SQjMzpL
Soderberg has stopped 112 of the 114 shots she’s faced thus far, which is good for a .982 save percentage. Most impressive through this run was her emerging victorious in a goaltending duel with Northeastern’s Aerin Frankel — last season’s Patty Kazmaier Award-winner.
If Minnesota Duluth is going to limit Ohio State offensively, Soderberg will need to find an even higher level.
Judging off the last three games, there’s a good chance she does.
Ohio State’s defense going against Minnesota Duluth stars Gabbie Hughes and Elizabeth Giguere
The Buckeyes rank fourth in the country in fewest goals against (56). Their defensive core of seniors Sophie Jaques and Madison Bizal and juniors Lauren Bernard and Hadley Hartmetz are a huge part as to why.
That crew will have a tough assignment on Sunday in preventing Minnesota Duluth forwards Elizabeth Giguere and Gabbie Hughes from having success in the offensive zone.
LIVE UPDATES: Click here to follow the entire tournament from start to finish
Through the three tournament games, Giguere has five assists. Hughes has four goals. Giguere’s 61 points rank second in the nation while Hughes’ 59 are tied for third. Hughes is also a top-three finalist for this season’s Patty Kazmaier Award.
Ohio State will have its hands full trying to control Minnesota Duluth’s two-headed monster on Sunday.
Battle of the stars
Two of the three finalists for the 2022 Patty Kazmaier Award will compete for the national championship — Hughes and Jaques.
With Hughes’ terrific stats listed above, let’s take a look at Jaques:
- 59 points (tied for third in the country)
- 38 assists (tied for third in the country)
- Plus-49 (best in the country)
Watching those two will be terrific. But there are many other players who are deserving of the spotlight, too.
TAKEAWAYS: Here are 5 takeaways from the Frozen Four semifinals
Giguere, Anna Klein and Naomi Rogge are prime ones. So is Ohio State’s Paetyn Levis, Liz Schepers, Jenna Buglioni and Clair DeGeorge. Jennifer Gardiner had a wild eventual game-winner over Yale in the semifinals. If there’s anything Ohio State is, it’s deep.