The Bulldogs had two opponents to contend with Saturday night at AMSOIL Arena - Ohio State University and the penalty box.
The No. 9 University of Minnesota Duluth women's hockey team almost spent an entire period in the box (19 minutes) against the Buckeyes and still managed to put up a fight before OSU escaped with the 4-3 Western Collegiate Hockey Association win. Though the loss drops UMD to 15-12-1 overall and 12-11-1-1 in the WCHA and back into a tie for fourth with the Buckeyes, head coach Shannon Miller was much happier with her team Saturday night.
"I was prouder of our game tonight and our performance than I was last night," said Miller after the game. "Last night we had one great period and were pathetic for two and won, and tonight we played three periods of hockey. We were down by two and fought, scratched and clawed and did everything we could to come back. We did a lot of good things, we created a lot of good chances. It just wouldn't go in."
UMD was handicapped with four minutes of penalty killing in the first period, but still managed to score the only goal in the stanza. Senior forward Haley Irwin won a draw out to the left of OSU goaltender Chelsea Knapp, and blindly backhanded a pass to Jessica Wong streaking into the slot. The tally was the tenth of the season for the junior blueliner, and gave the Bulldogs the 1-0 lead at 8:27.
The second period started in favor of UMD, with a goal from rookie forward Jenna McParland just 34 seconds into play to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 advantage. McParland's extended goal line shot was deflected in by an OSU defenseman for her 18 goal of the season, with Irwin on the assist.
Things went all downhill from there for UMD, however, with the Buckeyes getting a score from Natalie Spooner at 2:18 and a give-and-go power-play goal finished by Laura McIntosh at 10:42 to draw OSU even at 2-2. The Buckeyes finally picked up their first penalty at 11:25, but the Bulldogs were unable to capitalize. Then, with just 1:21 remaining in the period, McIntosh sprung a streaking Spooner up the left side of the ice, allowing Spooner to seal the breakaway for her second goal of the night, and handing OSU its first lead of the series.
A soul searching UMD squad started the third period with 57 seconds remaining on a power-play, but it took a penalty kill effort for the Bulldogs to cut into OSU's deficit.
After Vanessa Thibault took a boarding penalty at 5:53, it was Miller, not a game misconduct infraction as intitially thought, that sent Thibault to the locker room early.
"I said tonight that we can't make any mistakes on the things that we can control, our bodies, our emotions, whether we take bad penalties or not because that is the difference in the game," said Miller. "And it was the difference in the game. That put us in a position where we couldn't mount an attack for five minutes, there was no point to do something like that in the neutral zone."
The Bulldogs rallied down a player and less than two minutes later when sophomore forward Jamie Kenyon carried the puck into the Buckeye defensive zone, ripping a shot off Knapp that inadvertently went off a stopping Audrey Cournoyer and into the OSU net. Cournoyer's goal came at the 7:42 mark and swung the game's momentum heavily in favor of the Bulldogs. UMD had one last flurry with a power-play with less than three minutes left in the game, but the Buckeyes weathered the Bulldog storm to salvage a series split.
OSU outshot the Bulldogs 36-32 in the game and managed to go 2-of-7 with an extra skater, while the Bulldogs went 0-of-3. UMD served 19 minutes worth of penalities, more than twice what OSU served, with just eight against the Buckeyes, and 13 minutes of the Bulldogs infractions were in the third period alone. Jennifer Harss was wall at times in net, making 32 saves, and stopping clusters of rapid shots while UMD was down skaters.
"All I asked from them tonight was 60 minutes of work and playing together and they did," said Miller. "I thought they played well, and like I said, I am a lot happier with our performance tonight than I was last night. Welcome to life. Welcome to some hard life lessons. That's the way it goes sometimes."
The Bulldogs will travel to Bemidji State next weekend to face the Beavers in their last regular season road series of the year. Friday night's contest will get underway at 7:07 p.m., with a 2:07 p.m. start slated for Saturday.