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Buckeyes top Badgers for women’s hockey title

No. 1 seed Ohio State downed No. 2 Wisconsin 1-0 in the NCAA hockey national title game in Durham, New Hampshire on Sunday to capture the program’s second championship in three years.

Freshman Joy Dunne’s third-period goal wound up the game-winner thanks to a 26-save shutout performance from Buckeyes goaltender Raygan Kirk. It was an impressive end to Dunne’s campaign after she led Ohio State with 23 goals and 38 points to earn WCHA and NCAA Rookie of the Year honors.

The Buckeyes (34-4-0), making their third straight appearance in the final, avenged last year’s 1-0 loss to deny the Badgers from capturing back-to-back titles. Wisconsin (35-5-0) won a record seventh championship in 2023, breaking a then-tie with Minnesota.

It was Dunne doing the tie-breaking for Ohio State on Sunday.

“We were just talking [during the second intermission] about having poise,” Dunne said. “When you take a shot, take a breath [and keep going]. We have a great team; this was a team effort. Right from the start, we knew what the goal was and we did it.”

Much like last year, the championship rematch — the first in two decades — was another surprisingly low-scoring affair between the NCAA’s two top-ranked regular-season offenses (Wisconsin was first, Ohio State second).

It was Kirk and Wisconsin’s Ava McNaughton standing their ground through two scoreless periods, as the Buckeyes held a collective edge in shots at 20-17. The evenly matched squads were careful to stay out of the penalty box all afternoon too, negating any chance of special teams becoming an early factor.

The game didn’t widely open up until midway through the third as urgency increased for both sides. Ohio State was down a skater at that point, too, with defender Hadley Hartmetz out following an awkward spill late in the second period.

Wisconsin tried capitalizing on the Buckeyes’ rare mistakes, including when Kirk tripped playing the puck behind her net, and Badgers forward Cassie Hall barely missed a brilliant opportunity on the empty cage. Despite Ohio State dominating play, it was the Badgers continuing to generate looks when Laney Potter was stymied on the doorstep by Kirk.

McNaughton, who had 27 saves, was equally strong for the Badgers, who were attempting to become the first team to win consecutive titles since Clarkson in 2018.

The Buckeyes and Badgers have now combined to earn the last five women’s NCAA championships, Wisconsin won in 2019, 2021 and 2023, while Ohio State earned titles in 2022 and 2024.

The Badgers had seen plenty of Ohio State prior to Sunday’s final. Wisconsin topped Ohio State 6-3 in the WCHA championship on March 9 to earn the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament — but not its No. 1 seed, as that went to the Buckeyes for a third straight year. The Badgers went on to use a 25-save shutout from McNaughton to blank St. Lawrence 4-0 in regional action and closed out Colgate, 3-1, in the Frozen Four to make their repeat appearance in the title game.

Meanwhile, the Buckeyes bounced back from their WCHA loss with a resounding 9-0 win over Minnesota-Duluth in the NCAA regionals, where only two Ohio Skate skaters failed to register at least one point. The Buckeyes went on to down Clarkson 4-1 in the Frozen Four to tee up a rematch with Wisconsin.

The WCHA overall continues to rule the Women’s Frozen Four. Programs from that conference have now collected 20 of the last 23 titles.

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