Every weekday from June 12-27, we will be looking back at the "Top Shelf Moments" from the thrilling 2016-17 WCHA Women's League season. Up first on our countdown is…
Moment 12: Muzerall's Debut Sparks Ohio State Turnaround
Joining a new program can be a difficult challenge. Making your collegiate head coaching debut is always a daunting task. Joining a new program for your first collegiate head coaching job, and doing so less than three weeks before the season opener, may be viewed by some as downright impossible. Doing all of that with a season-opening, six-game road trip is just harsh.
Not so, however, for Nadine Muzerall and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Officially announced as the next OSU head coach Sept. 10, Muzerall made her debut behind the bench Sept. 30 at RPI – after the Canada native missed practice that week dealing with visa problems. The Buckeyes scored three, first-period goals that evening en route to a 4-1 road win, jump-starting an incredible 3-2-1 stretch in that season-opening road journey and an impressive, turnaround 2016-17 season. Before Muzerall coached her first game at the OSU Ice Rink, the Buckeyes already boasted a sweep at RPI, a win at WCHA rival Bemidji State and a 1-1 tie at eventual national finalist Wisconsin.
A two-time All-American at Minnesota who is still the Gophers' all-time leader with 139 career goals, Muzerall spent five years at her alma mater as assistant coach. During that time, Minnesota won four national championships and played in five-straight NCAA title games – a winning spirit that she quickly infused in her new team. Propelled by that strong start, Ohio State finished Muzerall's inaugural campaign with an overall four-win improvement (14-18-5, up from 10-25-1 in 2015-16) and a jump from seventh to fifth place in the ultra-competitive WCHA standings.
Under Muzerall's guidance, redshirt-sophomore Kassidy Sauve emerged as an All-American goaltender, Jincy Dunne's much-anticipated first season resulted in All-WCHA honors and two Buckeyes (Katie Matheny and Lauren Spring) earned WCHA Scholar-Athlete Awards. Ohio State posted two victories over ranked opponents, defeating then-No. 8 Bemidji State and then-No. 9 North Dakota, while the Buckeyes' shootout win at then-No. 4 Minnesota on Jan. 21 gave OSU the program's first points against the Gophers since the 2013-14 season.
Ohio State's season ultimately concluded in the best-of-three WCHA quarterfinals, where the Buckeyes nearly pulled off a road upset over tournament four-seed North Dakota. After winning the first game in Grand Forks, OSU fell in overtime in the decisive game three.
Yet, even a final-game loss could not mask the obvious: With obstacles overcome and a winning foundation laid, a new, exciting and promising era of Ohio State hockey is here.