ST. CLOUD, Minn. — For the first time in WCHA tournament history, a new face will be crashing the party in the semifinal round.
Hailey Clarkson scored two goals in the first period, and Laura Fast added a goal and three assists as St. Cloud State (18-17-1) defeated Ohio State 6-3 on Saturday afternoon at the National Hockey Center. The Huskies become the first team outside of the WCHA’s quartet of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Minnesota-Duluth, and Ohio State to advance to the tournament’s semifinal, which will take place next Friday at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
The game was initially characterized by St. Cloud leads and Ohio State comebacks. The Huskies held leads of 1-0 and 3-1 that the Buckeyes evened up, before St. Cloud’s three-goal lead proved to be decisive.
The game’s most critical minutes were the final three of the second period. On a St. Cloud power play, Ohio State tied the score 3-3 on a brilliant maneuver by Patty Kazmaier finalist Jana Harrigan — she picked up a turnover in the neutral zone and sped toward the net. St. Cloud goalie Lauri St. Jacques committed, and Harrigan calmly tossed the puck into the net for her D-I best sixth shorthanded goal of the season.
But the Huskies still had the advantage, and a scant 26 seconds later, they cashed in with their first power play goal of the weekend. A pass by senior captain Randie Jelinski one-timed by freshman Sammy Nixon was initially saved by OSU goalie Liana Bonanno, but Nixon put home her own rebound to crush the Buckeyes’ momentum entering the second intermission.
SCSU freshman Megan McCarthy scored early in the third to give the Huskies their second two-goal lead of the game. Junior Jacqueline Jensen added St. Cloud State’s sixth goal six minutes later to increase the lead to 6-3. There would be no comeback this time.
The Buckeyes (13-18-5) end their season with seven losses in their last 10 games. It was their worst showing of the last three seasons.
“We came here with the intention of winning two games,” said Ohio State coach Jackie Barto, who finishes her seventh season at the Buckeyes’ helm. “Give St. Cloud some credit, they made the plays when they had to. When they scored that power play goal, that was a real tough one. We felt that we were close to attaining our goals for the second period, and they come right back and answer.”
Answering was theme of the afternoon from the start, as both teams traded goals in the first three minutes. Just 1:50 after the opening faceoff, St. Cloud sophomore Laura Fast scored the game’s first goal for the second consecutive afternoon, this time on the Huskies’ very first shot of the game. Fast skated to the left of the net and wristed a shot which kissed the roof of the net and dropped straight down.
“The bounces seemed to go my way today,” said Fast, whose five points led St. Cloud State on the weekend. “My linemates and I really pulled together this weekend, I think we really made life easier for each other.”
The Ohio State response came 53 seconds later. Erin Keys picked up the puck in the attacking zone off a turnover and found sophomore Mallory Peckels, who scored on an open net after SCSU goalie Lauri St. Jacques committed early.
Midway through the first period, junior Hailey Clarkson tapped in a rebound off a shot by senior Kristy Oonincx to put the Huskies up 2-1, but it was her goal minutes later that really got the home crowd buzzing.
After recieving a pass from Denelle Maguet, Clarkson immediately put the puck between a defender’s legs before forcing it to the five-hole on OSU netminder Erika Vanderveer. The goal chased Vanderveer from the net in favor of freshman Liana Bonanno.
“That was just one of those situations where you don’t really know what’s happening when you move,” said Clarkson. “You just eventually find yourself with the puck in front of the goalie and then you have to decide what you’re going to do with it now that you’ve gotten it to that point.”
The Buckeyes needed to put something together quickly to defuse the Huskies’ momentum, and with their backs against the wall, the Buckeyes came out flying in the second period. A shot on goal about five minutes after the intermission rang off the pipe and the goal judge momentarily turned the red light, but referee Brad Shepherd waved it off.
St. Cloud helped OSU get back into the game by taking two penalties in succession, and the Buckeyes’ Shelby Aldous took advantage and cut the deficit to 3-2 at 7:34 of the period. Shortly after the first end of the 5-on-3 expired, SCSU defenseman Kelly Stewart lost her stick, which effectively disorganized the St. Cloud penalty kill. Aldous took a pass from senior Amber Bowman in an effective sequence that included Jana Harrigan and snapped the puck past a flailing St. Jacques to draw the Buckeyes within one.
After Aldous’ goal, OSU went right back on the power-play. While the Buckeyes did not score on the additional advantage, it set the tone for a continued attack throughout the remainder of the period and Harrigan’s game-tying goal, before Nixon’s goal shifted momentum back in the Huskies’ favor.
St. Cloud State completed the first playoff series victory in school history with the win, the latest in a continuing parade of school firsts in the program’s most successful season to date. The Huskies’ WCHA semifinal opponent was still unknown at the game’s end.
“We not too worried about who we’re going to play,” said St. Cloud State coach Jason Lesteberg. “We know we have to keep winning in order to keep playing unless something drastic happens. We’ll check it out on Monday and just take things from there. No matter who we draw, our key all season has been to work hard, and that’s something we know we will have to focus on regardless.”