It was the first night of senior weekend for Ohio State, but the evening belonged to Bemidji State and redshirt sophomore goalie Lauren Bench, whose 44 saves allowed a Beavers’ comeback victory in Columbus.
Bemidji State women’s hockey (11-16-2, 8-9-2 WCHA) upset No. 9 Ohio State (17-12, 11-10 WCHA) 3-2 on the road Friday night, turning a 2-0 first period deficit into a 3-2 win for its third straight season defeat against the Buckeyes.
“They’re similar to us.” Ohio State head coach Nadine Muzerall said. “They grind it out, they play relentless. I don’t know how to break that down philosophically, but they do have our number this year, that’s for sure.”
Ohio State dominated the puck for most of the night, putting 46 shots on net, with Bench saving all but two of them.
Bench made 22 saves in the third period alone, as Ohio State mounted an urgent offensive front that tried to regain the 2-0 lead they built in the first period on goals from senior forward Madison Field and senior defenseman Lauren Boyle.
Junior forward Abby Halluska scored her second goal in as many games against the Buckeyes to put the Beavers on the board and slice the Ohio State lead in half three minutes into the second period.
Her breakaway goal off a Buckeye turnover was Halluska’s fifth of the year, and marked a palpable shift in momentum for a Beavers offense that had been outshot 13-5 in the first period and had scored only 54 goals coming into the series.
Bemidji State did not let up, as the game-tying strike was provided by Bemidji State sophomore forward Lydia Passolt eight minutes into the second, which took the air out of the Friday night Buckeyes home crowd.
Much like their last meeting on Nov. 10, which also saw goals from Halluska and Field, the Beavers and Buckeyes entered the game’s final period knotted at two apiece.
Bemidji State completed the comeback with a long-range slap shot that snuck past Ohio State sophomore goalie Lynsey Wallace for her sixth goal of the season, giving the Beavers a 3-2 lead three minutes into the third period.
Wallace replaced freshman goalie Andrea Branedli, who Muzerall said is participating in an international tournament with her native Switzerland National Hockey Team.
Braendli was named NCAA No. 2 Star of the Week after two straight shutout performances the past weekend at St. Cloud State.
Bemidji State was 0-9-1 before getting its first two season wins against the Buckeyes in November, but now claim wins against No. 1 Wisconsin and No. 9 Ohio State in back-to-back weekends.
Bench made 27 saves in the Beavers’ upset against Wisconsin this past Friday, which Muzerall said helped build her confidence, as she entered this series with the second-lowest save percentage in the WCHA at .914.
Ohio State has lost three straight against Bemidji State, despite outshooting them 119-78, which Ohio State redshirt junior Jincy Dunne said is becoming indicative of the Buckeyes’ shortcomings on offense.
“That seems to be a common theme in a lot of our losses we’ve had,” Dunne said. “We’ve just got to find a way to get the puck in the net.”
Dunne added that the festivities of Saturday’s senior night may add some fuel on the fire for the Buckeyes.
“I think it will be more emotional just because we love our seniors,” Dunne said. “Especially because this could potentially be our last home game. We don’t know yet.”
Bemidji State will hope to make it four in a row against the Buckeyes on Saturday night with a season sweep. If it wins, it would be Ohio State’s seventh loss in nine games.
The Buckeyes are facing a must-win situation, as they stand at No. 9 and would likely drop from the polls with another loss, which would keep them out of the eight-team NCAA Tournament.