Joining the pantheon of all-time greats in Buckeyes women’s hockey history, Kassidy Sauvé’s brilliant run is one that shall stand as a benchmark for great goaltending upon its conclusion. Serving as a sentinel for the Buckeyes, providing them with a constant chance to win, the last two seasons were an affirmation of Sauvé’s status as one of the elites in NCAA hockey.
Having first arrived in Columbus in the autumn of 2014, Sauvé was a goaltending prodigy that provided high hopes for a rebuilding program. Capturing a gold medal for Canada at the IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds, it was a glimmering example of Sauvé’s status as a world-class goaltender. As a side note, Jincy Dunne, an alum from the US Under-18 program is one of Sauvé’s teammates on the Buckeyes, both earning a spot on the 2018 All-USCHO Third Team.
Taking into account that Sauvé would record a shutout in her NCAA debut, blanking the New Hampshire Wildcats by a 1-0 mark in a thrilling October 3, 2014 contest, the promise of greatness had quickly been fulfilled. Garnering WCHA All-Rookie Team honors by season’s end, Sauvé’s presence sparked the possibility a paradigm shift that the Buckeyes were able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the nation’s finest teams.
Assembling her first winning season with the Buckeyes in 2017-18, the magnitude of Sauvé’s impact consists of a stellar 42-37-9 career mark with one more promising season to remain. Adding to the feeling of achievement, other metrics that impress include a sparkling 1.88 goals against average, complemented by a .656 winning percentage and a scintillating .938 save percentage. In addition, she would break April Stojak’s record for most shutouts in a single season, one that stood for over 15 seasons.
This season, Sauvé also surpassed several career milestones, including over 5000 career minutes, 2500 saves and 40 wins. Just 12 games away from 100 appearances, while she needs merely eight wins to hit the 50-win plateau, her legacy with the Buckeyes is assured. Adding sheen to said legacy is the fact that Sauvé has set a new Buckeyes benchmark in career saves, also obliterating the former program record for career shutouts. With the former record standing at 12, Sauvé has redefined the standard, boasting 21 shutouts and counting.
“The individual records are nice, however the team records that we broke this year with the most wins ever mean more to me. The records I broke come as a result of the effort of the team I had on the ice with me.
Together we all contributed to the Buckeye history books. This is something each and every player on the team can be proud of. Everyone played a role in this experience.
I am blessed to have the most shutouts and saves in program history, but I truly look forward to the day that someone breaks these records. That’s what I want to see and if I played a small role in making that happen, great!”
Undoubtedly, there was a very strong element of momentum for Sauvé on the path towards such record breaking performances. Redshirted during the 2015-16 season, attributed to a long recovery from bilateral hip surgery, she assembled an amazing comeback afterwards.
With a tremendous display of perseverance, resiliency and character, Sauvé set a positive example in 2016-17, a superb springboard towards the greatness that unfolded. Simultaneously providing inspiration for her teammates as she started an astonishing 36 of 37 contests, subsequently breaking program records for starts and minutes played, it was one of the true feel-good stories of the season.
Such durability was only part of the story, as Sauvé’s season culminated with an historic honor. Presented with the honor of Second Team All-American, she became the first Ohio State goaltender to reach such vaunted heights. Joining Tessa Bonhomme (2007-08), Jana Harrigan (2006), Emma Laaksonen (2002) and Natalie Spooner (2012) as the only Buckeyes to gain the honor, Dunne would emulate her teammate’s heroics, becoming an All-America selection in 2018. Among the awards and accolades showered upon Sauvé in her brilliant career, the prestige of All-America status is one that Sauvé reflects upon with tremendous pride. Becoming a hockey hero on both sides of the border, gaining a profound realization of the feat, it is one destined to be treasured long after she hangs up her skates,
“I think as a Canadian, you really do not realize what this means until you are named an All American. Having coaches in your league bestow upon you such an honor is somewhat overwhelming and it is truly an honour and privilege to be recognized in such a way.
There are so many talented and elite athletes that have been named All Americans, so to even be considered on the same level is something I am definitely proud of, and that I will remember for the rest of my life.”
The rationale for the selection is certainly attested through a combination of remarkable work ethic and peerless performances. From the outset, Sauvé set a new single season saves record for the Buckeyes with 1135, which also led all NCAA backstops. Having also set a new standard for Buckeyes goaltenders with a sparkling .942 save percentage, Sauvé also led the NCAA in shots faced. Perhaps more significant was the fact that Sauvé faced at least 100 more shots, and registered at least 100 more saves than the second-ranked goaltender in each statistical metric.
Having also gained All-WCHA Second Team and All-WCHA Academic honors, there were a pair of other impressive milestones that defined such an unforgettable season for the spectacular Sauvé. Worth noting, she went undefeated against non-conference opponents, including five fantastic shutouts, blanking RPI, along with Lindenwood and Penn State twice each. From October 21, 2016 to January 7, 2017, Sauvé did not allow a power play goal, constantly frustrating opponents’ special teams.
Such an accomplished season would serve as the bridge towards an even greater one to follow as the milestones would quickly accumulate for Sauvé. Including a preseason tilt against the South Korean squad that competed in the 2018 Winter Games, as Sauvé shared playing time with the Buckeyes’ two freshman goaltenders, including fellow Canadian Amanda Zeglen, there was an empowering honor that set an encouraging tone.
Graced with the recognition of the WCHA Preseason Player of the Year, it did not take long for Sauvé to justify such a worthy selection, starting 2017-18 with a brilliant unbeaten streak. Posting a stellar 7-0-1 mark, accentuated by four superb shutouts, the Buckeyes enjoyed series sweeps of Rensselaer, Minnesota-Duluth and St. Cloud State, with Sauvé blanking the Huskies in both games.
During this remarkable stretch, there was one series that certainly made a statement. On the road against the University of Minnesota, one of the most dominant programs in NCAA history, Sauvé and her Buckeyes teammates humbled their opponents with a November 6 victory in front of a stunned crowd at Ridder Arena. Followed by a tie the following day, there was a developing sense that parity would redefine the WCHA.
The second half of the season served as further extension of Sauvé’s superlative abilities between the pipes. Back-to-back shutouts against Robert Morris and Penn State signified the start of a five game winning streak. Said streak was highlighted by a sweep of the mighty Golden Gophers on January 19 and 20, allowing only three goals, as Liz Schepers supplied the game-winning tallies in both games, it foreshadowed an even greater series of performances to follow.
Worth noting, February definitely offered Sauvé a chance at redemption. With a long-awaited rematch against the Badgers, having suffered a two-game sweep which signified the start of November, a highly motivated Sauvé led the way as the Buckeyes enjoyed their first sweep of their conference rivals in eight years.
Blanking them in the opening game of the series on February 2, Sauvé racked up 26 saves, including 12 in the first period, as Emma Maltais, the eventual WCHA Rookie of the Year Award winner, scored the game-winning tally. Allowing just one goal in the next match, a 3-1 final, Sauvé’s efforts signified a compelling shift in the conference hierarchy.
Said shift would reach full fruition as the Buckeyes qualified for the NCAA Tournament, an historic first for the proud program. The feeling of history would take on greater meaning as March 10, 2018 would signify the most important date in Buckeyes lore.
With Ohio State making its debut in the NCAA tournament, Sauvé shined on the biggest stage for collegiate hockey, shutting out the Boston College Eagles of the Hockey East Conference, qualifying for the Frozen Four. Considering that the Eagles captured the 2018 Beanpot Championship, boasting a roster that featured the likes of Katie Burt, the first pick overall in the 2017 NWHL Draft, plus high scoring freshman Daryl Watts, the recipient of the 2018 Patty Kazmaier Award, the Buckeyes can be forgiven if the rest of the hockey community viewed the 2-0 final as one of the biggest upsets in tournament history.
Goals by Lauren Boyle and Maddy Field, complemented by a pair of assists from Julianna Iafallo, helped Sauvé gain her 42nd career win, tying both Erika Vanderveer and Chelsea Knapp as the all-time leaders in program history. Worth noting, Sauvé recorded 38 saves, including an astounding 23 in the third period alone, masterfully assembling a breathtaking performance which proved to be her finest hour. As a side note, the notable win also represented a symbolic passing of the torch between its iconic goaltenders, as Sauvé is likely to follow Burt as a member of this year’s NWHL Draft Class.
Providing a valiant effort against the defending national champion Clarkson Golden Knights in the Buckeyes’ Frozen Four another historic first appearance for the Buckeyes, Sauvé allowed merely one goal as overtime was required to determine the winner. In spite of the fact that the Golden Knights prevailed in this visceral loss, there were still many positives to draw upon from the postseason journey.
From the outset, the Buckeyes notable season helped change the balance of power in the WCHA. Considering how the Frozen Four is the traditional domain of conference powerhouses such as Minnesota and Wisconsin, Sauvé did a phenomenal job of placing the Buckeyes into the conversation, transforming the most hardened cynics into believers, while taking her place as one of the most distinguished backstops in the game today.
“One of my key objectives when I committed to the Ohio State University was to represent the Buckeyes proudly and eventually make it to the Frozen Four before I graduated. When I mentioned this to friends who took their careers elsewhere, it was received with a bit of a chuckle.
Our journey to the Frozen Four was not what you would call conventional. We took a path that was different than most. As most are familiar with, my class in particular has had a bumpy road with many twists and turns over our four years at OSU but we persevered.
We knew we had talent, we knew we had top recruits joining the program and we also knew that we were on the right path.
This year in particular, we knew we had a special group of dedicated girls that believed in each other and we developed a ‘we will overcome attitude’. We all played for each other and getting to the Frozen Four was a vindication for all of us.
I am truly grateful to have experienced the FF with this particular group of girls. We came very close to reaching the ultimate goal of winning it all!”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Brent Cizek and Ohio State Athletics
Other images obtained from: https://twitter.com/OhioState_WHKY