Women’s hockey takes two from Ohio State

Aaron Blake

Minnesota’s women’s hockey team used freshman leadership to avenge a 4-0 loss in last year’s WCHA tournament with a sweep of Ohio State over the weekend at Mariucci Arena.

Only one of five Gophers goals in the series came from players who participated in last year’s game. Both games featured freshman goaltenders for Minnesota.

The sixth-ranked Gophers (5-2-1 overall, 4-1-1 WCHA) scored three goals by freshman Kelly Stephens against the Buckeyes (2-4-2, 1-3-2) to pace wins of 2-1 on Friday and 3-2 on Saturday.

Stephens’ second goal on Saturday broke a 2-2 tie with 20 seconds remaining in the game.

“I was just trying to put the puck on net,” said Stephens of the game-winning goal.

Stephens wasn’t the only freshman to come up big on Saturday. Stopper Brenda Reinen allowed one goal on 24 shots on Friday, and coach Laura Halldorson gave freshman Jody Horak her first collegiate start on Saturday.

The switch appeared hazardous early in the first period of the game, with Horak allowing two goals on three shots. But she settled down and held Ohio State scoreless for the duration.

Both goals were scored after the defense struggled to clear the puck, but Horak wouldn’t blame her teammates.

“They were fine,” Horak said. “I thought that maybe I was out of position a little bit.”

Minnesota also added freshman right wing Kristy Oonincx into the offensive mix this weekend.

Oonincx, returning from injury, took senior captain Laura Slominski’s spot on the Gophers top-scoring line with La Toya Clarke and Kelly Stephens, while Slominski and Sarma Pone each moved down a line.

Besides adding Oonincx on offense, the team tried mixing things up in order to spur the offense, which scored only four goals in its past four games.

“We weren’t scoring many goals so far this season, and thankfully Kristy’s healthy now,” Pone said.

The switches produced for the Gophers, with all three right wings getting assists on Saturday and Pone scoring the game-winning goal on Friday.

Pone, who wasn’t with the team last year, appeared to have her second goal of the weekend in the second period on Saturday. After a flurry of action in front of the net, Pone seemed to poke the puck in the net, but replays credited the goal to Stephens instead.

The confusion in front of the net closely resembled the situation surrounding Pone’s goal on Friday.

At 3:47 of the third period, six players, excluding Glaser, were within 10 feet of the crease, and Pone scored after several attempts by various Gophers.

After Saturday’s game, Halldorson was unwilling to deem the win as revenge for last year’s WCHA tournament game. Senior captain Tracy Engstrom had a similar sentiment.

“I don’t think it feels like revenge either,” Engstrom said. “But it felt really good just because we consider Ohio State a big rival.”