Freshmen forwards Emma Maltais and Tatum Skaggs started their ice hockey careers as followers. At the age of 4, all they wanted to do was lace up their skates and follow their big brothers onto the ice. It didn’t matter that they were likely to be the only girls in a rink full of boys.
Then, amid the countless drills, skating exercises and shots at the net, something clicked. Hockey was no longer about being just like their big brothers. It became their own passion.
“As soon as I started to play more, it was kind of like, ‘This is my dream,’” Skaggs said. “[My brother] just helped me get into it.”
Maltais developed a similar mindset as she got more into the sport, falling in love with the thrill and speed of the game. Her competitive edge has not waned over the years, especially since her start on the Ohio State women’s hockey team this past season.
Maltais led the Buckeyes in points with 14 goals and 24 assists in the 2017-18 regular season. Skaggs followed closely behind with 21 goals and 14 assists. Despite leading in the scorebook, neither of the freshmen feels her contributions are more important than anyone else’s on the team.
“Everyone knows that everyone is equal and we need all of each other to win,” Skaggs said. “I don’t feel as if there’s any hierarchy for me just because [I put] the puck in the net … it takes all of us to win.’
Both players knew they wanted to play collegiate hockey early in their careers. Maltais committed to Ohio State as a freshman in high school, while Skaggs was first scouted as an eighth-grader. Although Skaggs was torn between a couple different schools, she chose Ohio State because, like Maltais, she wanted the opportunity to play for a rebuilding team.
In the seasons following their commitments to Ohio State, Skaggs and Maltais watched from the sidelines while the women’s hockey program underwent three coaching changes in four years. Once Nadine Muzerall took the helm, they worried if they would still be welcomed on the team, but Muzerall assured them both they still had their spots.
As Muzerall has begun to lay the foundation for the program, players like Maltais and Skaggs have brought it to life while building their own legacies at Ohio State.
“My goal was to always come in and make a difference in a program and I think the fact that I’m a part of that is really an amazing feeling,” Maltais said. “Coach [Muzerall] has done a really great job in building our four pillars for our team and creating a culture, and I think being a part of that new culture is really a great way to start off my college career and I think that can keep going.”
Maltais’ and Skagg’s strong starts to their collegiate careers have not gone unnoticed.
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association named Maltais rookie of the month three times this season. She also was named rookie of the week twice, as well as offensive player of the week. Skaggs was named offensive player of the month in January, and offensive player of the week and rookie of the week twice.
Both agree a fitting way to end their strong freshman seasons would be a national title. Still, Skaggs said it’s important not to look too far into the future.
“I think that if we, at the end of the day, at the end of the season, if we make it as far as we do by working hard, I think that’s all that matters,” Skaggs said. “As long as we finish strong and with pride and with respect for our other opponent, I think that’s all we can do.”
Looking past their first season, both players hope to leave a lasting impact on the rebuilt program, starting by instilling in future players the values of being an Ohio State women’s hockey player.
“I think that we have a really strong freshmen class that came in and I think that my class moving through these next four years can help make a difference in the program,” Maltais said. “I think it’s about building a legacy here at Ohio State and truly passing on to the younger girls coming in what it’s meant to be a Buckeye.”