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The Yale women’s hockey team (26–8–1, 16–5–1 ECAC) will skate in the program’s first ever Frozen Four semifinal against Ohio State (30–6–0, 21–6–0 WCHA) on Friday with a spot in the National Championship game on the line. 

The Bulldogs advanced to the national tournament off of a record-setting 25 regular season wins for the program. The Elis then reached the Frozen Four by winning a 2–1 overtime thriller over Colgate in their first ever game in the NCAA tournament, avenging their loss in the ECAC championship game.

Yale built on its experience to get by a tough Colgate team, with Tess Dettling ’22 playing the role of hero with the overtime winner. 

“In [overtime] emotions are so high, especially in the playoffs, so to score a goal in overtime just instantly takes all that pressure off which makes it all that much better,” Dettling said of her goal. “I saw [Emma] DeCorby [’25] gather the puck, and it looked like she had a pretty clear lane to get the puck to the net, so I did my best to get in a good position in front of the net, and luckily the puck popped out right in front of me, and I was able to get my stick on it.”

However, at the highest level of women’s collegiate hockey, the games do not get any easier. Following their regional final win, the No. 5 seed Elis will now face the Ohio State Buckeyes, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. 

The Buckeyes head into the tournament on a hot streak and are the favorites to secure the national title. Ohio State is undefeated in its last eight games with its last loss dating back to Feb. 11.

The Buckeyes boast perhaps the most well-rounded play in the nation, as they lead the country in scoring margin at 3.19. The team has scored the most goals this season with 170, while starting goalie Amanda Thiele has the fourth best goals against average in the country at 1.294.

However, the Buckeyes nearly didn’t make it to the Frozen Four, as one of Yale’s biggest rivals, Quinnipiac, took the Buckeyes to double overtime in their regional final before Ohio State won, 4–3.

The biggest scouting note for the Bulldogs from that game will be the importance of star goalie Gianna Meloni ’22. Meloni will need to bring her best if the Bulldogs are to pull off the upset, as the Buckeyes shelled the Quinnipiac net with 77 shots on goal over 82 minutes.

If any goalie is up to the challenge, it may be Meloni. Meloni ranks eighth in the nation in goals against average at 1.471 and is 10th in save percentage at .938.

Meloni will hope that the game will end in a similar fashion to her last, a 28-save performance that got her team to this point before Dettling scored the overtime winner. 

“I was literally shocked. I didn’t see the shot taken. I saw the puck pop out and just go in that empty net and then I looked at the bench and there’s gloves flying and the lights are going,” Meloni said in a post game press conference. “It’s insane. Such a moment to remember.”

The moment is one that no one will forget soon, as the Bulldogs won their first ever NCAA tournament game. 

Much of the credit for reaching this point must go to head coach Mark Bolding, who in only two years has transformed the program into a national powerhouse.

Bolding, already the ECAC Coach of the Year, has now been named as a finalist for the AHCA Coach of the Year. The Bulldogs have set new program records in each of his two seasons. This year, many of his players have also earned impressive personal accolades.

“Very proud of how the team handled it [in their first NCAA tournament game],” Bolding said in a post game press conference. “But it’s a great thing, Yale has a great hockey tradition, we haven’t won a national championship and been very successful, so this is really what we wanted to do.” 

Bolding will certainly have his hands full devising his game plan this weekend as he will be going up against another AHCA Coach of the Year finalist in Ohio State’s Nadine Muzerall, who was also named the WCHA Coach of the Year

The Bulldogs, led by Bolding, are in a position the program has never been in but have not been fazed by the feeling so far this year. The team hosted its first ever ECAC championship tournament game, and also played in its first ever ECAC championship final, before qualifying for and winning in its premier NCAA tournament game.

The Bulldogs and Buckeyes will square off on Friday, March 18 at 7:00 p.m. at the Pegula Ice Arena in University Park, Pennsylvania. 

SPENCER KING