MINNEAPOLIS — If you want to capture someone’s attention, whisper. So went a popular ad campaign, and apparently, it can work in hockey as well.
Sophomore defenseman Megan Bozek called for the puck with low volume seconds before unleashing a high-volume slap shot that found its target and sent the Minnesota Golden Gophers into the holiday break with a 2-1 overtime win Sunday over the Ohio State Buckeyes.
“I saw [Sarah] Davis go down on the right wing, and she came up back toward the defense,” Bozek said. “Honestly, I kind of whispered her name so their forwards wouldn’t hear it, and I called for it, and I dragged it. I saw the open shot, so I took it. It hit both posts and went in, so it was pretty nice.”
Kelly Terry had the second assist on the goal at 3:14 of OT for the Gophers (13-6-0, 8-6-0 WCHA).
The play negated a strong effort by Ohio State (8-8-2, 4-8-2 WCHA).
“I thought it was a great collegiate game — up and down,” Buckeyes coach Jackie Barto said. “Unfortunately, that turnover occurs, and Bozek puts that one by.”
The puck dropped 22 hours later than expected on the series finale after Saturday’s snowstorm and postponement, but the offenses still weren’t quite ready at the outset. Not for a want of chances, but goalies Noora Raty of the Gophers and the Buckeyes’ Lisa Steffes won all of the duels through the first two periods plus. For the visitors, this continued a trend from game one, when they were shut out, but Minnesota had scored five or more goals in their last 12 meetings with OSU.
“We played Buckeye hockey,” Barto said. “We played our system defensively and put a lot of pressure on them and didn’t give them as much time and space as we did on Friday night.”
Ohio State finally broke through at 6:58 of the third period on a 5-on-3 goal by Hokey Langan, when her attempted centering pass deflected off a Minnesota defender and eluded Raty. Laura McIntosh and Shannon Reilly picked up the assists on Langan’s 10th tally of the season.
Terry came closest to scoring in the second period, flying in and getting the goal light turned on and the referee to signal a goal, but the call was overturned upon review when the officials ruled the puck did not go in the net.
For over 50 minutes, Steffes kept everything out of her net, finishing with 39 saves on the day.
“They battled; their goalie played awesome,” Bozek said.
Steffes deflected much of the praise, crediting her teammates in front of her, but said she has been encouraged by the way the first half has gone and is excited for the rest of the season.
Barto said, “She’s given us some stability in the net, and it’s something that we’ve needed. To be a good team, we’ve got to be good in the net. We trust and believe in her.”
Ironically, the Gophers were the team that seemed to seize the momentum after the Buckeyes claimed the 1-0 lead.
“I think we just responded on their goal and realized that we didn’t want to lose that game,” junior defenseman Kelly Seeler said.
Less than two minutes after killing off the penalty that remained after the Ohio State power-play goal, Seeler fired a high blast into the goal for a 1-1 tie.
“[Sarah] Erickson made a great pass over,” she said. “When you catch that one timer over, you get the goalie moving, so you need to get that shot off quick.”
“In the third period, we had talked just about let’s of course hit the net, but we’ve got to get some traffic in front, because their goalie was obviously seeing it,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “On both goals, we had great screens.”
Seeler’s goal, her fourth to go with seven assists, continued a junior campaign in which she has excelled at both ends of the ice.
“She’s really coming back into her own and playing extremely well here for us,” Frost said.
Minnesota’s success in stifling the Buckeyes offense, but for the lone goal on the weekend that came when Ohio State had a two-skater advantage, can in large part be attributed to keeping the dangerous Natalie Spooner off of the score sheet.
“I think our whole team would agree that she is one of the best players in college hockey to watch,” Bozek said. “We knew what we had to do — we had to step up, not give her time, and not fall for her fakes, which she likes to do. I think our forwards and defense did a great job stopping her and not letting her shoot.”
Barto said the tough loss would not be deflating for her team as it breaks before hosting Wayne State on Dec. 30.
“We turned it the other way; it’s a positive,” she said. “If you concentrate on the performance versus the outcome, you’ve got to build on that.”
The Gophers, winners of seven of their last eight, wish their next game was sooner than Jan. 7, when Minnesota State comes to town.
“I wish we had another weekend to sweep another team,” Bozek said.