Gophers split with previously WCHA winless Buckeyes

Brian Deutsch

Missed opportunities by the Minnesota women’s hockey team allowed Ohio State to pick up its first Western Collegiate Hockey Association win of the season this weekend in Columbus.

The Gophers split two games with the Buckeyes, winning 4-1 on Friday before losing 2-1 in Saturday’s series finale.

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Minnesota Duluth
WHEN: 7:07 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Ridder Arena

On Friday night, freshman forward Kelli Blankenship put Minnesota in front with two minutes left in the first period after scoring her fourth goal of the year.

Ohio State’s top-ranked power-play unit was shut out by the Gophers as the Buckeyes were unable to convert a single goal from their eight power-play opportunities in the series opener.

“We shut them down on Friday,” Minnesota sophomore forward Gigi Marvin said. “It was a great feeling because we had worked so hard on that in practice.”

Minnesota (4-3-1 overall, 3-2-1 WCHA) was the exact opposite as it scored the majority of its four goals on the power play.

The Gophers scored three goals in the second period – all of them coming with Ohio State’s penalty kill unit on the ice.

“We didn’t really let Ohio State get going,” coach Laura Halldorson said. “We played with a lot of confidence and obviously getting those goals helps.”

One of the Minnesota power-play goals came under very rare circumstances. With the Buckeyes already at a two-player disadvantage, the Gophers caught another break when a referee signaled a delayed penalty against Ohio State.

Minnesota sophomore goalie Brittony Chartier rushed to the bench, giving the Gophers an extra attacker that proved to be unnecessary.

Before senior forward Andrea Nichols could make it down the ice as the extra attacker, Blankenship was able to score her second goal of the game halfway through the second period.

“The puck kind of rebounded off to me and I just finished it,” Blankenship said. “We were able to put the puck in the net when we had chances.”

Ohio State (3-5-2, 1-5-0 WCHA) finally got on the board early in the third period when sophomore forward Morgan Marziali shattered Chartier’s hopes of a shutout.

Unlike Friday’s opener, Saturday’s game was more of a nail-biter.

Ohio State junior forward Erin Keys gave her team the early advantage when she scored four minutes into the contest.

“(OSU) came out flying. It was a different game on Saturday,” Marvin said. “I’m not going to say we played our best, because we obviously didn’t. We did play hard and we just needed to capitalize on the opportunities.”

The Buckeyes maintained their one-goal lead until Marvin tied the game up with just three minutes left in the game.

But Keys was unwilling to let her team remain winless in the WCHA. The St. Paul native recorded the game-winning goal – her second goal of the game – with just 1:08 left in play.

“We didn’t play well (Saturday) and we got beat by a better team,” Halldorson said. “The game-winning goal was scored on a couple of breakdowns in our own zone and they capitalized.”