COLUMBUS, Ohio - When they needed a bounce back win, the No. 3-ranked Ohio State women's ice hockey team looked no further than its defense and a freshman goalie to lead the way.
Amanda Thiele, making just her second career start, stopped 29 shots and the defense in front of her helped limit Minnesota to just one goal. On the other end of the ice, Ohio State scored once in each period - including a game-clinching empty net goal by senior Emma Maltais - to secure a 3-1 win over the No. 2-ranked Gophers on Saturday. Ohio State (9-5-0) the Minnesota (9-4-0) split this weekend's series, the only in the country that featured two top-five ranked teams.
"Our defense did a great job of surfing and gaping up," said head coach Nadine Muzerall. "We took away anything in the neutral zone and played physical. Minnesota played physical, too. It was a great back and forth game."
An evenly-played first period saw its jolt of offense when Tatum Skaggs helped the Buckeyes convert a power play opportunity and take a 1-0. For Skaggs, a senior, it was her sixth goal of the season and her second point this weekend. Paetyn Levin and Madison Bizal were credited with assists on the play.
A flurry of scoring occurred in the final minute of the second period, as the team's traded goals and the Buckeyes eventually went into the second intermission with a 2-1 lead. Sara Saekkinen found the back of the net for the first time this season with 49 seconds to play in the period for what proved to be the game-winning goal. Levis and Riley Brengman assisted on the play.
With just four-tenths of a second to play in the second period, Minnesota cut the lead in half to 2-1 when Abigail Boreen snuck one past Thiele.
Thanks to the play of Thiele, who made 10 third-period saves, and the rest of the Buckeye defense, Minnesota couldn't find the equalizing goal. Instead, with just 13 seconds remaining, Maltais scored on an empty net to give Ohio State the insurance tally that it needed.
Thiele improved to 2-0 on the year and made 23 of her 29 saves in the second and third periods. Ohio State's defense successfully killed off all five Minnesota power plays.
Shots: Ohio State 44, Minnesota 30
Saves: Minnesota (Pahl) 41, Ohio State (Thiele) 29
Power Play: Minnesota 0-5, Ohio State 1-3
Scoring (G-A-P): Paetyn Levis 0-2-2; Tatum Skaggs 1-0-1; Emma Maltais 1-0-1; Sara Saekkinen 1-0-1; Madison Bizal 0-1-1; Riley Brengman 0-1-1; Gabby Rosenthal 0-1-1
After five straight weekends of games, the Buckeyes earn a well-deserved bye next weekend. They will be back in action Feb. 13-14 when they travel to Minneapolis for another series against the Gophers.