Johnson’s Wisconsin wins Frozen Four
by Andrew Podnieks|20 MAR 2023
Kirsten Simms scored the championship winning goal at the 2023 NC Women's Ice Hockey Championship.
photo: Chris Tanouye / IIHF
Kirsten Simms scored at 13:28 of the opening period and Cami Kronish stopped all 31 shots she faced to lead the Mark Johnson-coached University of Wisconsin Badgers to a 1-0 win over the Ohio State Buckeyes in the NCAA championship final Sunday afternoon at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth, Minnesota.

This marked the first ever 1-0 game since the NCAA introduced a national women’s championship in 2001, and only the sixth win by shutout. This was also the first time all season the Buckeyes were held without a goal. 

A native of Plymouth, Michigan, the 18-year-old Simms is a freshman. She won gold with the U.S. at the 2020 Women’s U18 and a silver two years later. 

The Buckeyes were defending champions after defeating the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, 3-2, for their first ever championship last year. The Buckeyes are coached by Nadine Muzerall, in her 7th season, and Swede Peter Elander is her assistant coach. For Johnson, this marks a true and remarkable dynasty as the Badgers have now won three of the last four national titles going back to 2019 (COVID-19 cancelled the 2020 tournament). Overall, they have now won seven, more than any other university.
Natalie Buchbinder, Sophie Shirley, Britta Curl, and Kronish have played on all three championship teams under Johnson, and Kronish was named the top player of the Frozen Four this time ‘round. 

“I give a lot of credit to Cami [Kronish],” said Johnson after the game. “She took the torch this year. She has worked hard for five years, and this is the first year she really got an opportunity to play. She wanted the baton. She took us to the end, and today she was the difference in the game.”

The Badgers got to the finals by defeating the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers on Friday night, 3-2, thanks to an overtime goal by Caroline Harvey. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, punched their ticket to the finals courtesy of a 3-0 win over Northeastern and a shutout from Amanda Thiele. Thiele stopped 20 of 21 shots against Wisconsin on Sunday, but that one shot from Simms proved to be the difference. 

The Buckeyes failed to clear the zone and Simms got the puck in the slot. Boxed in by three Buckeyes, she turned and fired a high wrister that beat Thiele over the blocker. That proved to be the only goal all game.

Wisconsin’s roster is a veritable who’s who of North Americans to have played at IIHF tournaments, from the Women’s U18 to the senior Women’s Worlds to the Olympics. For Team USA, in addition to Simms, that includes Maddi Wheeler (WW18 gold 2019, silver 2020), Britta Curl (WW18 gold 2018, silver at Women’s Worlds 2021), Jesse Compher (two WW18, three WW, and the 2022 Olympics), Lacey Eden (two WW18 and two WW), Buchbinder (2017 WW18 gold), and Caroline Harvey (two WW18, two WW, and 2022 Olympics). Canadian teammates included the Shirley sisters, Sophie (2016 and 2017 WW18) and Grace (2018 and 2019 WW18), Marianne Picard (2018 WW18 silver), and Sarah Wozniewicz (2020 WW18 silver).

In between the semi-finals and finals, USA Hockey announced the winner of the Patty Kazmaier award on Saturday morning, given annually since 1998 to the best women’s player in the NCAA. The three finalists were Alina Muller of Northeastern (Switzerland) and two Canadians, Danielle Serdachny (Colgate) and Sophie Jaques (Ohio State). Jaques, a Toronto native, came out on top in the voting, becoming only the second defender to win the award after Angela Ruggiero nearly two decades ago (2004). 

Jaques is the first Buckeye to be so honoured, and this is the 11th time a Canadian has won. An outstanding student, Jaques earned a degree in civil engineering last year, graduating magna cum laude, after which she accepted a fellowship towards earning her master’s degree, which she started this past fall. She was not named to Canada’s team for the upcoming 2023 Women’s World Championship starting 5 April in Brampton, Ontario, but Muller and Serdachny were.

“I am extremely honored and humbled to receive the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award,” Jaques said at the awards ceremony. “I am grateful to be a recipient of an award named after the incredible athlete, scholar, and human being, Patty Kazmaier. While this is an individual award, I have been supported by a whole team of people, throughout this season and my career at Ohio State, and I owe this all to my coaches and teammates over the last five years. Receiving this award is something I never even could have imagined was possible.”

The Kazmaier Award is voted on by a 13-person selection committee made up of NCAA Division I women's hockey coaches, representatives of print and broadcast media, and representatives of USA Hockey.