Women’s hockey sweeps Buckeyes

by Brett Angel

Ohio State just can’t find a way to win the close ones.

After the 2,423 women’s hockey fans finished applauding Minnesota’s dramatic 2-1 victory and series sweep over the Buckeyes and filed out of Ridder Arena on Saturday night, dejected Ohio State players walked slowly out of the visitors’ locker room and into a silent basement hallway.

Their head coach, Jackie Barto, stood just a few feet away with her eyes closed and her head against the wall.

This was the look of a team that just lost its ninth one-goal game of the season and sixth in its last 12 contests.

“I thought our team had a great performance,” Barto said. “We showed a lot of heart and character. We did everything but win the game.”

Moral victories are tough to find for a team that has gone just 3-8 in its last 11 games, but Barto did her best.

“It’s not going to get to us,” she said. “We’re going to keep working until we get those wins and be proud of the way we play.”

Playing on the road for the 11th time in 12 games, the Buckeyes (8-18-2, 5-11-2 WCHA) fell behind early to the Gophers on Friday.

Minnesota forward Krissy Wendell scored two first-period goals and assisted on a third to give her team a 3-0 advantage.

But instead of folding, Ohio State stepped up its play in the final 20 minutes, out-shooting the Gophers 9-4 and tallying a pair of goals before eventually losing 5-3.

That energy carried over to Saturday’s game and helped the Buckeyes hold an explosive Minnesota offense to just three first-period shots.

The Buckeyes out-shot the Gophers 22-10 over the first two periods and created multiple odd-man rushes. But the game remained tied 1-1 heading into the third period thanks to an exceptional performance by Minnesota goalie Jody Horak.

“They outplayed us for much of this game,” Minnesota head coach Laura Halldorson said. “If it wasn’t for Jody back there making some great saves I’m not sure if we would have won.”

The game remained knotted at one until Ohio State captain Emily Hudak was whistled for holding with 1:55 remaining.

Halldorson called a timeout and Wendell came up big for the Gophers just 30 seconds later with her third goal of the series.

Horak finished the game with 25 saves and improved her record to 19-2 this season.

“I knew they were going to come out strong,” Horak said. “I just did what I had to do to help keep my team in the game.”

Minnesota (22-3-1, 15-2-1) played both games against Ohio State without forwards La Toya Clarke (in Germany competing with Canada’s Under-22 Team) and Kristy Oonincx (suspended indefinitely on Thursday for “conduct detrimental to the team”) and was forced to jumble its lines.

Halldorson knows she must find more consistency in her lineup and get better focus from her players if the Gophers expect to earn any points on the road against No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth this weekend.

Anything less than a sweep means Minnesota will most likely remain as the second place in the WCHA and the second-best women’s hockey team in the state.