Ohio State redshirt sophomore goaltender Kassidy Sauve stares down a rolling puck against St. Cloud State on Feb. 4 at the OSU Ice Rink. Credit: Magee Sprague | Lantern reporter

Ohio State women’s hockey redshirt sophomore starting goaltender Kassidy Sauve was given figure skates by her parents when she was just 4 years old, but she turned them down. She didn’t want the “girl skates.” All she wanted was to play hockey, even if it meant being the only girl on the team.

So, Sauve started playing hockey with her brother and played goalie.

Now, Suave is the 2016-17 NCAA saves leader and broke OSU’s school record for most saves in a single-season on Saturday.

“I fell in love with (hockey) early on,” Sauve said. “When I was little I was on the ice all the time. Other than when I was doing school work I was on the ice or playing road hockey.”

There was no girls team near the small town outside of Montreal where Sauve grew up, so she got her start playing on all-boys teams. Even when her family moved to Toronto, she begged her parents to let her try out for the boys team.

“I think it made me very intense,” Sauve said. “I think a lot of my teammates would say I’m an intense person and I hate losing. I’m very passionate and I think that had a lot to do with me playing boys hockey.”

One of Sauve’s favorite hockey memories came when she was chosen to represent Canada on the under-18 women’s national team.

“When I got the call that I was selected for the under-18 women’s national team I was very excited,” Sauve said. “It was something I dreamed of when I was little. We played in Budapest, Hungary, and we actually won gold, which was really cool. I’m really hoping to experience that again someday.”

Sauve had no plans to attend a big school due to her small-town upbringing. But­­­­­­­, when she visited Ohio State, she fell in love with the campus, the people and the rink.

“I noticed right off the bat that for a big school it has a small school feel,” Sauve said. “I just fell in love with the school and I know a lot of people don’t love our rink, but I fell in love with our rink because it reminds me of childhood rinks.”

It wasn’t too long after Sauve stepped foot in Columbus that she faced one of the toughest challenges of her life.

In a game at Wisconsin, an opposing player made a back-door pass which caused Sauve to slip. Immediately something felt off.

“I thought I just pulled my hip flexor or something,” Sauve said. “I got an X-ray and an MRI and it showed that my labrum was torn. What was causing it was that I had extra bone mass on my femur … And I had it on both sides. Thank my genetics for that.”

Sauve underwent bilateral surgery to clean up the extra bone mass on her femurs. Recovering from a major surgery is difficult, but she said the real challenge was being away from the sport she loves so much.

“It was tough when they were on the ice or in practice and you’re sitting in the stands or on the bench watching, but I would try to stay close to (my teammates) all times possible,” she said.

Aside from her teammates, Sauve leaned on her family who was hundreds of miles away in Canada.

“My family was a huge support system for me, they helped me through that process,” she said. “They were always there for me and always a phone call away. They still made trips down even though I wasn’t playing.”

Sauve has experienced countless memorable moments on the ice, but one that sticks out beyond the rest is the first time she stepped back on the ice after her surgeries. She was in just a tracksuit and skates but it was a moment she will never forget.

“I got chills,” Sauve said. “I got very emotional. It was really exciting to not be in pain when I was skating. It brought tears to my eyes.”

After being out of the game for 581 days, Sauve is dominating in her comeback season. Following Saturday’s game, she has racked up 1,086 saves so far in her redshirt sophomore season, the most in the NCAA. She is more than 100 saves ahead of the second-place competitor.

“I definitely have a solid defensive team in front of me,” Sauve said. “The number of shots I have doesn’t do them justice.”

OSU coach Nadine Muzerall said Sauve is the “backbone” and the “quarterback” of the team.

“She faces a lot of shots and she always does what we need of her,” Muzerall said.

Playing in the WCHA, Suave faced some of the toughest offenses in the country on a weekly basis. In league play, the Buckeyes took on the current No. 1, 2 and 4 teams in the country.

“The matter of fact is, I don’t know why we give up a lot of shots but I like it,” she said. “So it’s not a big deal to me. I’d rather have 900-and-something shots versus 150 throughout the season.”