Friday night started the Minnesota-Ohio State series at Ridder Arena. It was also the first official visit of Milica McMillen, a former Gopher, as part of the coaching staff at OSU. Since head coach Nadine Muzerall, also a former Gopher both on the ice and behind the bench, took over the OSU’s women’s hockey program, it has undergone a revitalization. The WCHA expects big things from them this season and the Buckeyes aim to deliver.
With Kassidy Sauve in goal, OSU scored twice before Minnesota even got a shot on the board. The first came when Jacyn Reeves got the puck at the midline from Liz Schepers and skated unopposed down the center before lobbing it over Alex Gulstene’s right shoulder into the back of the net at 2:06. Dani Sadek had the second assist. Then the Buckeyes generated a flurry of activity around the Minnesota zone that created enough chaos for Reeves to tip the puck into goal from just right of the crease at 3:49. Lauren Spring had the lone assist on this goal. Then Schepers flew down the left side and it was only that she shot went high that kept the Gophers from being down by three.
Unsurprisingly, the Gophers were frustrated by this turn of events and several players on both sides ended up hitting the ice with assistance including Erin Langermeier with help from Patti Marshall along the Minnesota backboards. Charly Dahlquist went to the box for hooking at 10:34, but the penalty expired harmlessly in OSU’s zone. Then at 12:40 Cara Piazza had to sit for two minutes for cross-checking a Buckeye. Taylor Wente had a breakaway down the right side, but Sauve denied her shortie attempt and in the process knocked the net off its moorings. A couple minutes after Minnesota killed the penalty Olivia Knowles knocked a Buckeye into her bench and then as the puck continued on, ringing the boards Lindsay Agnew boarded a Buckeye in Minnesota’s corner and put Minnesota on another penalty at 16:56. Gophers ended the period on a third penalty after Reilly accidentally hooked someone behind OSU’s net at 19:18.
Piazza started second period with a breakaway down the left side and passed to Alex Woken at Sauve’s doorstop, but Woken’s shot rang off the post instead of netting Minnesota a short handed goal. Sydney Baldwin took an interference penalty after sending Tatum Skaggs crashing into Gulstene at 4:38. They had several near chances, but the Buckeyes were unable to convert. Then Reilly and Kippin Keller made a great attempt on goal, but it ended when Reilly was knocked onto Sauve and the goaltender landed badly. Sauve was slow to get up and the trainer came on the ice to check her out, but she remained in goal.
Dahlquist took her second hooking penalty of the night at 7:42 and it ended the same with as the first with the Gophers frustrated. The pressure on Minnesota didn’t lessen until Woken’s shot from the left side rebounded off Sauve’s pads to Sophie Skarzynski, who five-holed it to score at 10:59. Maddy Field then tripped what looked like Keller and had to sit for two at 14:02. On the power play Minnesota creased a mess at the crease and after Sauve went down Grace Zumwinkle drove the puck home via an open backdoor at 14:19. Agnew and Reilly assisted on the tying goal. Dahlquist and Piazza ended up shoving a bit after a whistle and the Gophers made a concerted effort to pull ahead in the last minute, but the period ended in a tie.
In the third period Baldwin tossed Skaggs after she got too close to Gulstene after a save. Lisa Bruno then took a hooking penalty at 4:55 whereupon Zumwinkle almost scored, but Jincy Dunne literally dived in front of her to block the shot. Buckeyes got down to business after that and during some chaos in Minnesota’s zone a shot from the goal line bounced past Minnesota defense and over Gulstene’s leg into the net at 7:22. Dahlquist got the goal, while Skaggs and Emma Maltais assisted, and then Maltais nearly scored one of her own off the puck drop.
Grace Zarzecki and Skarzynski got tangled up and crashed into the Minnesota bench, which the referees determined was Skarzynski’s fault, so she went for hooking at 8:14. Minnesota eventually killed the penalty and then went on the power play at 10:58 when Rebecca Freiburger took a tripping penalty. Alas Minnesota could not convert, nor could they score again despite pulling Gulstene twice in the last minute of play and Minnesota using their time out with 13.1 seconds on the clock. For the first time in a decade Ohio State had beaten Minnesota, winning 3-2.
Saturday Minnesota started strong as both teams put their faith in the same goaltenders. This time Skaggs is the first to the box on an interference penalty at 2:42. On the power play Knowles uses the rebound off Baldwin’s shot to shoot hard, low, and from the left side to score at 3:27. Agnew had the second assist. Maltais made a 5-hole shot shot that nearly tied the game, but Gulstene denied her. Minnesota kept attacking and then Katie Robinson fed Reilly the puck, she slipped past OSU defense for a breakaway and then scored at 7:54, top shelf on Sauve’s stick side. Skarzynski and Marshall both nearly score.
Then Schepers flies in with a shoot that Gulstene stops, but she fell back into goal and when she got up the puck was past the goal line. Initial call was no goal and the call stood after a review. However, Maltais scores immediately after when Dahlquist gave her the puck off the faceoff at 12:01. Maltais tries again, shooting, catching her rebound and shooting again, before Skaggs caught the second rebound and scored at 14:37. A couple minutes later Baldwin put a low shot on goal, which Sauve blocked, but she couldn’t cover or clear the puck before Skarzynski banged it home at 16:08. Woken had the second assist. Both sides made more solid attempts, but Minnesota went into first intermission in the lead.
Minnesota pulled further ahead when Woken scored 23 seconds into second period, assisted by Piazza and Marshall. Langermeier then went to the box for interference at 2:33 and the penalty harmlessly expired two minutes later. It seemed like the Gophers were safe, but the team clearly doesn’t have the dominance of past seasons as their competitors have steadily improved. Julianna Iafallo scored at 10:12 with assists from Field and Dunne. Then Minnesota had to kill a Knowles interference penalty at 13:16. Still, OSU shortly tied things up when Skaggs netted her second of the game at 17:03. Maltais and Dunne assisted.
Emily Brown went to the box for holding 28 seconds into third period. Gophers killed it, but weren’t so lucky on Zumwinkle’s interference penalty at 12:17. Sadek’s power play goal at 12:48 put OSU ahead for the first time in the game. Dahlquist and Skaggs assisted yet again. Minnesota wasn’t behind for long though, as Reilly then scored her second of the game at 13:42 with assistance from Zumwinkle and Baldwin, which re-tied the game. The teams stayed deadlocked like this for the rest of regulation and through the five-minute overtime.
Officially the game ended in a 5-5 (OT) tie, but there was still the matter of the extra WCHA point to be decided and so they went to a shootout. Skaggs and Iafallo shot for OSU and both beat Gulstene in the one-on-one scenario, while neither Nicole Schammel nor Zumwinkle could do the same with Sauve. So the shootout ended after two rounds with Ohio State getting the extra point in a 5-5(OT) tie game. No need to imagine the Buckeyes had a grand old time on the trip home, after all they got five of the six WCHA points and beat a foe they’ve spent ten years losing to in every matchup. As for Minnesota, now’s not the time to start panicking, but they’ve got a series of difficult games ahead of them: Bemidji State then Duluth on the road before returning to Ridder for the border battle with Wisconsin to finish off October.