Posted: 1:30 p.m. Friday, March 8, 2013
By Chris Webb
One doesn't have to be a hockey fan to know what The Miracle on Ice refers to. Heck, one doesn't have to be a fan of any sport to know of the United State's victory over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics; the ultimate underdog story of how the US captured gold in Lake Placid resonates in culture 33 years later.
While not on a national stage, far from being played underneath the backdrop of tense international relations, the Ohio State women's hockey team have their own Miracle moment on hand.
After sweeping Minnesota-Duluth in a best-of-three series, 4-2, 3-0, last weekend, the women icers are in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Face-Off for just the third time in the program's 14-year history. At 19-14-3, 12-13-3 in WCHA play, Ohio State will open the WCHA's tournament semi-finals in the nightcap with a showdown against No. 1 Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Taking on the nation's top ranked team, on their home ice is a tough task. Taking on these Gophers this season, is one of Herculean proportions.
Minnesota enters the weekend riding an NCAA-record 44-game winning streak. The reigning national championships breezed through the regular season, scoring 197 goals while surrendering 29 en route to a 36-0 record. Allowing four goals for every five games played, Minnesota has average more than five goals every time they step on the ice. Minnesota is not only the most dominant women's hockey team in the country, they are the most dominant regard of gender and sport in the NCAA.
But if one team is to upset the Gophers, the Buckeyes have as good of a chance as any this season.
With three Patty Kazmaier Memorial Trophy Finalists, the women's hockey equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, and four All-WCHA First-team selections, Minnesota captured the WCHA crown by scoring 141 goals against 27 in their perfect 28-game campaign. When the two teams last played, Feb. 8-9, while the Gophers scored goals in each game to match their season and in-conference average, the Buckeyes lit the lamp twice in game one, three times in game two. The five goals Minnesota conceded to the Buckeyes was one of two times they did allow at least two games in both games of a series, the five-game weekend margin of victory the slimmest they encountered.
If one wants to go further back, there is another positive for the Buckeyes headed into tonight's match. When Ohio State last played in the Final Face-off, 2010, they met Minnesota, in Minneapolis. The Gophers needed two overtimes to dispatch the Bucks 5-4.
Minnesota is has a roster full of future Olympians, but the Buckeyes have two of their nation's best in senior forward Minttu Tuominen who played with the Finnish National Team in the 2010 Winter Olympics and junior defenseman Annie Svedin a member of the Swedish National Team. The two have big-game experience of the sport's highest nature that will be called upon to lead the team.
The odds may be against them, the numbers not in there favor, but these are the moments an athlete dreams of. The Miracle on Ice may not see a redux, but as Herb Brooks, the head coach of the mighty US squad said: "great moments are born from great opportunity."
And that's what the Ohio State women's ice hockey team has tonight.
WCHA Final Face-off
No. 1 Minnesota 34-0
19-14-3, 12-13-3 WCHA t-4
Jr. Ally Tarr 13 goals, 19 assists, +10
Sr. Hokey Langan 12 goals, 17 assists, -3
So. Kari Schmitt 5 goals, 23 asissts, +5
So. Taylor Kuehl 13 goals, 13 assists, +2
Sr. Paige Semenza 13 goals, 13 assists, +2
Jr. Chelsea Knapp 35 G, 19-13-3, 2.42 goals against average, 871 saves, .913 save percentage
Goals allowed: 91
Penalties: 152, 315 minutes