Women's hockey: Lourdes grads excited for future of Eagles' program

Rebecca Freiburger, a 2016 Lourdes graduate, is a senior forward for the No. 5-ranked Ohio State women’s hockey team, which will play Minnesota at 4:30 p.m. today as part of Hockey Day Minnesota 2020, at Parade Park in Minneapolis. (Photo courtesy of Ohio State University athletic department)
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Rebecca Freiburger and Renee Saltness lined up across from one another during a game in late September.

Not a word was said between the long-time friends and former teammates.

"There were a couple shifts we were out there at the same time, lined up next to each other at the faceoff," Saltness said. "It was a little weird; no words said.

"We knew each other was there, but it was all business, competitive at that point."

Freiburger and her Ohio State women’s hockey team got the better of Saltness and her Quinnipiac University team. But just barely, the Buckeyes winning a pair of games by identical 3-2 scores at Quinnipiac, in Hamden, Conn., in late September.



It had been awhile since the Lourdes graduates and former Rochester John Marshall/Lourdes standouts had skated in a game together.

Freiburger, a 2016 Lourdes grad, left Rochester for Columbus, Ohio, having put up 93 goals and 147 points in four seasons with the JM/Lourdes program. Saltness graduated a year later after a remarkable high school career that ended with her scoring 132 goals and accumulating 238 points.

"Being part of a great hockey community helped a lot," Saltness said of growing up in Rochester. "Wanting to go to the rink every day makes it more enjoyable, and growing up playing with your friends … I played with Rebecca for the longest time. Playing with friends like her makes coming to the rink much more enjoyable."

Saltness and Freiburger still enjoy going to the rink daily, even it feels more like a job in a Division I program. While home in Rochester for their holiday break, both were on the ice last week practicing with the Rochester Lourdes’ girls team.


"It’s really cool to see how the programs in Rochester have developed, especially to see Lourdes and what they’ve done," Freiburger said. "It’s really cool, and to see the great coaching staff and players this team has. It’s really neat to see that these girls have that opportunity to represent their school."

Quinnipiac has had an up-and-down season, going 5-11-3 in the first half. Saltness, a sophomore, has played in 16 games this season and 50 in her year-plus college career.


Freiburger, a junior this season, helped the Buckeyes reach the Frozen Four last season and has helped them to a 14-6-0 start to this season, as well as the No. 8 ranking in the country. She has two goals this season, giving her 20 points so far in her OSU career. She has also earned a spot on the team’s top penalty-kill unit, a role she embraces with pride.

"I’m kind of a grinder, a first-line penalty kill type," Freiburger said. "That’s what makes our team special; we don’t have a team full of all-stars. We have a team of players who will play whatever role they’re asked to play."

Freiburger said the Buckeyes have been motivated by the way last season ended, a 1-0 overtime loss against Clarkson in the national semifinals.

"Just being around that culture every day and the high expectations that Ohio State has, it has really helped me improve as a player," she said. "We have a great coaching staff that has done a great job of helping us get better."

Though both Freiburger and Saltness will soon again be hundreds of miles away, both players said they’ll keep a close eye on their alma mater, as Lourdes is ranked No. 6 in the state and has high hopes of earning the program’s first trip to the state tournament.

"They have a lot of really good players, a lot of talent," Freiburger said. "They’re also girls who are excited to be here and excited about hockey, and that’s what’s really great to see."

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