In the final weekend of matchups of the regular season, the Ohio State women’s ice hockey team (10-23-1, 6-21-1) split its series with the No. 9-ranked University of North Dakota (16-11-5, 13-10-5).
OSU showcased the strides it has made this season as it beat the Fighting Hawks 3-1 on Friday before falling 3-2 in a tight contest a day later.
On Friday, after an extremely competitive first period, the Buckeyes and Fighting Hawks were tied 0-0. Despite 17 combined shots from both teams, neither OSU nor North Dakota was able to find the back of the net.
However, that turned around 16:51 into the second period, as OSU got on the board off a goal from freshman forward Maddy Field. Sophomore defenseman Dani Sadek then doubled the Buckeyes’ lead less than three minutes later.
In the third period, North Dakota’s Meghan Dufault knocked the puck past OSU goalie Alex LaMere to cut the Buckeyes lead in half with a little more than three minutes to play. The Fighting Hawks pulled their goalie in an attempt to find the equalizer, but that alllowed OSU junior Claudia Kepler to score with four seconds remaining on an open nut to seal the 3-1 result.
In Saturday’s senior day affair, OSU jumped out to its fastest start of the season with two goals in the first three minutes. Junior Alexa Ranahan and sophomore Lauren Spring scored the goals for the Scarlet and Gray, with Ranahan’s being her first of the season. However, North Dakota answered with a goal with less than three minutes left in the first period — a sign of things to come in the contest.
In the second period, North Dakota was able to get two shots past redshirt senior goalkeeper Stacy Danczak, who got the start in her final game at OSU. Becca Kohler and Dufault scored the two goals for the Fighting Hawks. Neither team was able to score in the third, as the game culminated in a 3-2 final score.
After the game, seven senior Buckeyes — Danczak, Melani Moylan, Julia McKinnon, Kendall Curtis, Cara Zubko, Maggie Rothgery and Bryanna Neuwald — were honored at center ice in recognition for their time wearing scarlet and gray.
Both games were close contests, and OSU assistant coach Carson Duggan said she thinks the second game was decided by a few more positive plays for North Dakota.
“Those are two evenly matched teams and it was just they executed one more time than we did,” Duggan said. “I think we had our chances and we battled hard. We came out with a lot of energy and it’s an emotional day for a lot of kids, but I think that was the only difference is that they executed one more time than we did.”
Field, however, offered a different explanation for Saturday’s defeat, citing the referees as an issue in the second game and the way the team let the officials’ calls affect their play.
“Obviously you can’t blame it on the reffing, but I think the reffing kind of let the game get out of control,” she said. “We had a really good start but I think we let the reffing get in our head and we let a weak goal in.”
The team was only able to score on one of eight power plays over the weekend, which is something they will look to improve upon in their first-round playoff series against Minnesota next weekend.
“I think that we won a lot of our battles and we were getting shots at the net,” Field said. “I think we need to work on capitalizing on power plays but I think we did really well penalty killing.”
Duggan said she thinks the team’s drive and tenacity will be keys to the playoff games next weekend.
“I think just leaving it out there. At this point in the season it’s who wants it more and how bad do you want it and what are you willing to do to get it, and I think our girls showed a lot of character and a lot of heart this weekend,” Duggan said. “We have a short bench, and the girls battled hard, as a coach that’s all you can ask for. So I think just taking that mentality and why not let’s see what we can do in Minnesota.”
OSU is scheduled to travel to Minnesota next weekend to take on the Golden Gophers in the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs. The puck is set to drop in Minneapolis on 8:07 p.m. on Friday and 5:07 p.m. on Saturday. If Friday’s and Saturday’s games are split, there will be a deciding game on Sunday.