MINNEAPOLIS — The 30th time is the charm. After losing 29 straight games versus Minnesota, Ohio State claimed a shootout win to take the extra WCHA point following the teams’ 2-2 overtime tie.
“I think we tightened up the stuff that we weren’t getting done yesterday,” OSU coach Nate Handrahan said. “I think we kind of renewed a commitment to playing hard in front of our net and not giving them tap-ins. All six of their goals yesterday were right in front of our cage. There was a full team effort for us from top to bottom. Play like a team and compete and anything can happen.”
The Buckeyes (7-12-3, 2-11-3-1 WCHA) tied the game at 18:19 of the third period when Ally Tarr got behind the defense, skated in alone, went to her forehand, and slipped the puck by Amanda Leveille.
“[Tarr] was one of those that we needed to step up and play better,” Handrahan said. “Ally did what Ally does and scored a goal. The timing was right.”
Neither squad found the net in OT or through the first eight rounds of the shootout, although each goalie needed help from the metal on one attempt. In round nine, Lisa Steffes remained perfect, while Kendall Curtis faked out Leveille and ended the affair in the visitors’ favor.
“In the shootout, [Steffes] was phenomenal,” Handrahan said. “So was [Leveille] in their net. I was wondering if we were going to have to recycle back through the whole team again.”
Julia McKinnon drew first blood for Ohio State at 9:53 of the second period, taking a pass from Danielle Gagne in transition, using a defenseman as a screen, and blasting a high shot into the net.
Minnesota (20-1-1, 14-1-1-0 WCHA) rallied 1:47 into the third period on a power-play shot from the point by Baylee Gillanders, with Rachael Bona getting the only assist.
After killing off a couple of penalties of their own, the Gophers took the lead on a Rachel Ramsey bomb from the point that went off Steffes and into the net.
“Tough one tonight,” coach Brad Frost said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t play our best hockey, and when you do that against a good team, bad things happen. [We] came out really well in the third period after two flat periods and got those two goals to take the lead. Unfortunately, we gave it up with two minutes left on a breakaway. It’s something that we need to learn from, and it’s an opportunity to learn, and we will.”
The Gophers had the better chances early in a scoreless first period; Ohio State had over a minute with a five-on-three power play late.
In the shootout, Minnesota elected to shoot first despite having demonstrated little shooter prowess in a couple of shootouts during its exhibition schedule.
“Hannah Brandt’s our ace, and she hit the post,” Frost said.
As the rounds ticked by, it looked more and more likely that an unexpected hero would decide the outcome. That turned out to be Curtis, a sophomore with five previous Buckeyes goals.
“It was an exciting game,” Handrahan said. “It was a great college game to watch. I think for women’s hockey and for female sports, darn it, that was a heck of a ball game.”
The announced crowd for the game was 2,203.
“Everything was a struggle,” Frost said. “The energy from our bench, not from the crowd, but from the bench. The passing was off. We weren’t moving our feet, just very perimeter offensively instead of getting to the net. Not a good result.”
Next week, OSU returns to Minnesota for a Saturday and Sunday series in Duluth.
“In the first half, we made our own bed as far as the results that we had,” Handrahan said. “So in the second half, we’re just worrying about one day down the road. We have to go and play those road games; that’s our league.”
The Gophers hope that they can be re-energized by playing outdoors versus Minnesota State on Friday afternoon as part of the Hockey City Classic.
“We’ll work hard here on Monday and Tuesday, and then we’ll start to look forward to enjoying the festivities a little bit,” Frost said.