Top-ranked Buckeyes storm back strong, earn a weekend split with Gophers
Minnesota was dealt a bad hand by the hockey gods in the first period of a game with defending national champion Ohio State, then saw things get lopsided as the Gophers' 13-game win streak ended.
MINNEAPOLIS – As they work to defend their NCAA title won in 2022, the Ohio State Buckeyes have just two losses in regulation this season, and both of them have come courtesy of the Minnesota Gophers.
On Saturday afternoon, the Buckeyes decided to give their conference foes a black mark of their own on the wins and losses ledger, rallying for a 5-1 win and handing the Gophers their first home defeat of the season.
Sloane Matthews and Hadley Hartley scored for the Buckeyes less than half a minute apart to erase an early Gophers lead, and Ohio State goalie Amanda Thiele was close to perfect, with 32 saves to snap Minnesota’s 13-game winning streak.
“It’s like two heavyweights going at each other. You know it’s going to be a fight, you know you’re going to get hit and you have to hit back,” said Buckeyes coach Nadine Muzerall, after her team bounced back from a 4-2 loss in the series opener on Friday. “They’re a great team. I think that’s really one and two in the country, and I don’t think that’s going to be the last time we see each other.”
Madeline Wethington’s first period goal gave the Gophers (23-4-2 overall, 20-2-2 WCHA) an early lead, but it was short-lived. They got 27 saves from goalie Skylar Vetter in their first loss since Thanksgiving weekend.
Leading 2-1 in the third period, the Buckeyes got goals from Gabby Rosenthal, Kenzie Hauswirth and Paetyn Levis to pull away. They improved to 25-3-2 overall and 20-3-1 in the conference.
After Vetter thwarted the Buckeyes’ push in the game’s opening minute, which included the afternoon’s first power play, Wethington got the big crowd revved up by threading a shot from the blue line through a crowd and between the Ohio State goalie’s knees for a 1-0 Gophers lead. For Wethington, the former Minnesota Ms. Hockey winner, it was her second goal of the season and first since a home win over New Hampshire on Jan. 7.
“I just think we needed to get one on net and create chaos,” said Wethington. “It’s always a good way to start a game, by getting a few shots on net, so it was really nice to get that one on the board.”
Then the sometimes cruel hand of hockey fate dealt the home team a blow. First, Madison Kaiser’s shot that would have doubled the Gophers lead clanked the pipe behind Thiele. On the ensuing rush up ice, the Buckeyes tied the game. It did not stay that way long. Just 21 seconds later, Buckeyes defender Hadley Hartmetz banked a puck off Gophers defender Emily Oden and past Vetter for a 2-1 Ohio State lead.
“We got the first one and got a little momentum there. If you get to 2-0, who knows what happens,” Frost said. “All of a sudden it’s 1-1 and they get an own goal off of our defenseman’s stick. A couple fluky ones tonight, but you’ve got to credit them, they were getting pucks to the net.”
The Gophers dominated the scoreless second period, out-shooting the Buckeyes by a wide margin, but could not draw even despite a pair of power plays. When Rosenthal scored to make it 3-1 in the opening minute of the third, the hill got notably harder to climb.
“We were trying different things on our penalty kill, and it was really nice to see our relentlessness, not even allowing them to set up on both of their power plays,” Muzerall said. “They’ve got some big dogs on the power play, you’ve got to keep them away from your net and and there’s one more of them than you, so it’s dangerous. But I was really happy that we were blocking shots from some really good shooters.”
It was the second game in a row where the Buckeyes had made an early push, and this time it resulted in a lead that they would not relinquish.
“They do a great job of reloading in the middle of the ice, their D stay up in the neutral zone,” Frost said. “In the first period we turned pucks over like there was a sale on it, but as we got going and as we started using different areas of the ice, we started generating a few more things.”
The Gophers last loss at Ridder Arena was at the hands of the Buckeyes in the 2022 WCHA tournament title game. They host Wisconsin in a pair of games next weekend.
Ohio State 5, Minnesota 1
Ohio State 2-0-3—5
First period — 1. MN, Madeline Wethington 2 (Peyton Hemp, Madison Kaiser), 6:32. 2. OS, Sloane Matthews 4 (Sydney Morrow), 9:27. 3. OS, Hadley Hartmetz 5 (unassisted), 9:48. Penalties — Kaiser, MN (slashing), 1:50.
Second period — No scoring. Penalties — Emma Peschel, OS (elbowing), 2:22; Paetyn Levis, OS (interference), 6:41. Catie Skaja, MN (hooking), 18:24.
Third period — 4. OS, Gabby Rosenthal 17 (Sophie Jaques, Jenn Gardiner), 0:29. 5. OS, Kenzie Hauswirth 6 (Paetyn Levis), 14:23. 6. OS, Levis 19 (Emma Maltais, Makenna Webster), 15:31. Penalties — Lauren Bernard, OS (roughing), 15:52; Gracie Ostertag, MN (roughing), 19:12.
Shots on goal — MN 7-15-11—33; OS 14-6-12—32. Goalies — Skylar Vetter, MN (32 shots-27 saves); Amanda Thiele, OS (33-32). Power plays — MN 0-of-3, OS 0-of-3. Referees — Tyler Olson, Duncan Ryhorcuk. Linesmen — Aaron Neville, Mike Mueller. Att. — 2,865.