MINNEAPOLIS — Ohio State came into its semifinal clash with Wisconsin encouraged by the teams’ close regular season matchups. Although the Buckeyes dropped all four contests, three were by a single goal.
In Saturday’s tournament game, the Buckeyes (20-13-4, 13-11-4 WCHA) again competed well and had their chances, but they were unable to break through against the Badgers (32-1-4, 23-1-4 WCHA) in a 4-0 loss.
“You look at it — if one of those had gone in, it’s a different game,” said Ohio State coach Jackie Barto. “There’s a little bit of luck to having success at this level, along with heart and determination.”
Wisconsin had all of that and more, scoring in every period and in every way.
Jasmine Giles opened the scoring for Wisconsin on the power play. Erika Vanderveer made a fine save on a Meaghan Mikkelson blast from the top of the circle, but the puck rebounded to Giles in front. Vanderveer recovered enough to get a piece of her follow up, but the puck deflected off of her glove and into the net.
“Bobbi Jo [Slusar] and Sara [Bauer] did a really good job of working it back and forth along the boards,” said Mikkelson. “I was looking to throw it on net right away, and Giles did a good job of getting in there and burying the rebound.”
A second period sequence proved pivotal, as Ohio State was unable to convert on a 5-on-3 advantage, and then surrendered a shorthanded goal to freshman Meghan Duggan to fall behind 2-0.
“Meghan [Duggan] comes out of the box, and Sara makes a nice play along the boards next to our bench to create space,” said Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson. “Meghan’s coming down and Sara makes a nice pass and now it’s 2-0. It was a reward that you weren’t looking for.”
Ohio State didn’t get any reward for its chances.
Erin Keyes had a rebound pop out to her with Jessie Vetter out of position in the game’s first five minutes and was unable to tuck the puck under the sliding goaltender.
Said Vetter, “That was a desperation save. It was a rebound that I thought was going into the corner, but she made a good play. I got lucky. It’s good to keep the puck out of the net and keep our team in the game.”
Another golden opportunity went for naught when Vetter made a pad save on a partial break by Tessa Bonhomme.
“I think I should have gone high,” Bonhomme said. “I got a little bit of a tug on my arm, I shouldn’t have let if effect me, but it did. If I could take it back, I would.”
The Badgers put the game away with a pair of third-period goals at even strength. Angie Keseley jammed home a rebound with Erika Lawler and Mikkelson assisting, and Jinelle Zaugg slammed home a one-timer from Bauer for the final 4-0 margin.
Vetter, who stopped all 22 shots for her shutout, thanked her defense: “The D has played great all year. They keep the shots outside, and if we do give up a rebound, they’re right on it to get it out.”
Vanderveer also recorded 22 saves in her final game as a Buckeye.
“I’m very proud of the team,” said Barto. “We’ve had an outstanding season, and we have a special group of young women in the locker room.”
Now Wisconsin will look towards defending its WCHA title.
“We’re thrilled to get another opportunity to play in the playoff championship game,” said Johnson.