MINNEAPOLIS — A late-season addition to the squad, freshman Lacey Eden was the hero for Wisconsin, scoring 46 seconds into overtime to give the Badgers their ninth WCHA Tournament Championship. The team also won the regular season title this year.
The goal came off a turnover by Ohio State near the blue line. Delaney Drake one-timed it to Eden in stride at the top of the far circle and Eden started to carry it towards the net.
“I saw (Watts) on the left side, the defender was kind of cheating to her and so was the goalie, so I picked my spot and put the puck in the net,” Eden said.
In addition to the game-winner, she had the primary assist on the Badgers’ other two goals. In just 12 games played in a Wisconsin sweater, Eden has eight goals and seven assists and she is tied for fourth in the team in points.
Joining the team at second semester, she has acclimated quickly and become a crucial part of the Badgers’ team.
“It has been an amazing experience so far. Everything about it has been surreal,” she said.
It could have been a more difficult transition, but Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson said Eden joined the team ready to play and continues to work to earn time on the ice and on special teams.
“We didn’t know where she was going to fit in and where she was going to play,” Johnson said. “We couldn’t be happier for her. I’m sure there were some days where there were a lot of questions in her mind in terms of if she made the right decision and in the end she gets rewarded.”
Despite the loss, Ohio State should receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Ranked third in the country, they should still receive one of the top four seeds.
Losing in overtime is heartbreaking, but Buckeye coach Nadine Muzzerall said she told her players, “This loss does not dictate who you are and what your season resembles. I feel very confidence you’ll get another shot and a lot of people don’t get that. We’ll have another shot to get some hardware next week.”
After splitting their season series, it was clear that these two teams are evenly matched and that was on display again in the scoreless first period of this game. The teams traded possession and each had time in the zone, but solid defense on both sides meant shots on goal were just six to five in favor of the Buckeyes as the teams headed to the locker room.
That changed in a wild second period. WCHA Player of the Year Daryl Watts put Wisconsin up 1-0 when she was able to bury a deflected pass across the slot from Lacey Eden.
Ohio State was able to even the score just three minutes later when Lisa Bruno was moving between the circles and had her shot blocked. The puck popped up and landed just in front of Jennifer Gardiner, who had an open lane to one-time it past Badger goalie Kennedy Blair.
Wisconsin’s Grace Bowlby was called for interference just six seconds later and that opened a chaotic stretch of four penalties given over the course of 90 or so seconds. Ohio State’s Sara Saekkinen collided with UW’s Britta Curl at center ice and that was reviewed for contact to the head. She was given a minor penalty. Lacey Eden was called for tripping, giving the Buckeyes a 4-on-3 advantage. Then just a minute after Curl had been helped off the ice and down the tunnel after the collision, was back on the ice and given a checking penalty.
The first ten minute of second period game play took a half hour to complete.
Wisconsin killed all the penalties, but the Buckeyes seemed to have the momentum in the ensuing minutes.
Watts ended that with an impressive solo effort. Eden fed her once again, this time from behind her own blue line. Watts down the far boards through the neutral zone before cutting in at the circle and dragging the puck across the crease and tucking it between the post and an out-stretched Braendli to make it 2-1 Badgers.
“I had a lot of speed and I felt like I could beat the (defender) wide, so I did that. I kind of figured I could do a little bit of a fake shot, bring it to the backhand and try a deke,” she said.
Johnson said it was the kind of scoring opportunity he sees Watts create a few times every game.
“Her second goal is what she does so well. (She) utilized her speed and got the puck by the goaltender,” he said. “She puts herself in a position to have success in the scoring column.”
In the third, Sophie Jacques tried a wrister from near the blue line that clanged the upper post and ended up in the back of the net. Blair may have been screened on the play as Ohio State tied it up at 2 midway through the third.
The teams – along with Minnesota and Minnesota Duluth – await the NCAA Selection show, which will air live on NCAA.com at 8 pm central time, to know if their season continues and who they’ll face.
Unlike years’ past, the NCAA quarterfinal games will also take place at the Frozen Four site. Games will be Monday, March 15 and Tuesday, March 16. The semifinals are set for Thursday, March 18 and the championship game will be Saturday, March 20.