ST. CLOUD, Minn. — It is said that in a tie game, no shot is a bad shot. St. Cloud State proved this axiom true at an opportune time.
Denelle Maguet took a shot that appeared to be simply thrown on net, and Ohio State’s Erika Vanderveer made the inital save, but senior Ashley Stewart was in the right place at the right time to poke at the puck, which trickled in behind Vanderveer’s outstretched leg just 50 seconds into overtime. The goal gave St. Cloud a 2-1 win over the Buckeyes, good for the first playoff victory in school history.
“It was pretty much all Denelle,” said Stewart. “She got it across there and it was just sitting there next to [Vanderveer's] skate. The puck was just sitting off the post there.”
“I asked on the bench at the beginning of overtime, ‘Who’s going to be our hero today?’” said St. Cloud coach Jason Lesteberg. “Laura Fast pointed down the bench and said ‘Ashley Stewart.’ And I asked Ashley and she said ‘Sure.’ So she scores about ten seconds later.”
St. Cloud State (17-17-1) took the early lead four and a half minutes into the first period. After moving the puck into the zone along the boards, Ashley Stewart ripped a pass into the slot, which was tipped in mid-air by sophomore forward Laura Fast for her sixth tally of the year.
Ohio State (13-17-5) netted the tying goal midway through the period. With a player in the box for both teams, Patty Kazmaier finalist Jana Harrigan sliced through the St. Cloud defense in the neutral zone after recieving a pass from sophomore Lisa Chesson. On the breakaway against St. Cloud goalie Lauri St. Jacques, Harrigan went to the backhand after feinting to the left at the goal crease for her 22nd goal of the season.
“Just a great pass from Lisa Chesson,” said Harrigan. “I took what [St. Jacques] gave me. I can’t take too much credit for it, it was just such a great pass.”
OSU netminder Erika Vanderveer made a brilliant point-blank save on a power-play shot by St. Cloud’s Kristy Oonincx with under ten seconds remaining in the first to preserve the tie. Ohio State dominated the first period’s scoring chances, compelling St. Jacques to the top of her game.
“You can’t have road legs when you’re into playoff hockey,” said Ohio State coach Jackie Barto. “We had a very good first period and really gained an edge.”
The Huskies turned the tables in the second period, forcing Vanderveer to make 13 saves, while St. Jacques only had to make four stops for St. Cloud State. Neither team, however, took the lead during the period.
The third period was much more even, and featured one power-play opportunity for each side during the last 10 minutes, but again, neither team found the net. SCSU and OSU finished regulation at a combined 0-for-9 on the advantage.
The game appeared ready to settle into a tedious display of brinkmanship, but Stewart’s tip emptied the St. Cloud State bench only 50 seconds into the extra frame.
“I thought Erika played a very good game,” said Barto. “She made some very big saves for us. The game ended how it ended and we have to just play for the future — we can’t dwell on the past.”
The victory was the first for St. Cloud State in four all-time WCHA playoff games.
“It wasn’t the prettiest of hockey games,” said Lesteberg. “With a two out of three series at home, you want to start off in the best possible fashion, and that’s with a victory.”
For Ohio State, the game was the Buckeyes’ 10th of the season which went to overtime. The loss was only their second of the year in the extra period.
“It’s not the situation we want to be in, but we thrive in these situations,” said Harrigan. “We always seem to play better when we’re down a goal, we always play better when we need to win a game. We’re allowed to lose this one. We’re not allowed to lose the next two.”
St. Cloud State leads the best-of-three series 1-0 and can close out the series to earn a trip to the WCHA Semifinals in Minneapolis with a victory in Game Two on Saturday afternoon. Game time at the National Hockey Center is 2 p.m.