Two women's college hockey powers — defending NCAA champion Ohio State and the seven-time national champion Gophers — completed their two-game series on Saturday at Ridder Arena and ended up in the same place where they started the weekend: with the Gophers holding a two-point lead over the Buckeyes in the WCHA standings.
Goals 19 seconds apart in the first period by Sloane Matthews and Hadley Hartmentz erased an early deficit and sent the top-ranked Buckeyes on their way to a 5-1 victory over the No. 3 Gophers for a series split in front of 2,865. Minnesota, which won Friday's opener 4-2, took a 1-0 lead on Madeline Wethington's first-period goal but could not solve Ohio State goalie Amanda Thiele the rest of the way.
The loss ended the Gophers' 13-game winning streak and came a day after Minnesota ended Ohio State's 10-game run.
"It felt different than what we've been experiencing, for sure,'' Gophers coach Brad Frost said. "But we didn't feel like it was a 5-1 game.''
The Gophers (23-4-2, 20-2-2 WCHA) have 62 points with four conference games remaining, while Ohio State (25-3-2, 20-3-1) is two back. Minnesota finishes the regular season with a home series against Wisconsin next weekend and a road series at St. Thomas. The Buckeyes are host to St. Thomas next weekend before visiting Wisconsin.
Skylar Vetter made 27 saves for the Gophers. Thiele stopped 32 shots, and the Buckeyes got third-period goals from Gabby Rosenthal , Kenzie Hauswirth and Paetyn Levis. Ohio State held Gophers stars Taylor Heise and Grace Zumwinkle, who have combined for 97 points this season, off the scoresheet.
"It was like two heavyweights going after one another,'' Ohio State coach Nadine Muzerall said. "You're gonna get hit, you're gonna have to hit back, and you've got to make sure you don't go down for the count.''
The Gophers landed the first big punch at 6:32 of the first period when Wethington rifled a shot from the point through a screen and past Thiele. Minnesota nearly made it 2-0 when Madison Kaiser rang a shot off the crossbar at 9:06.
"We got the first one and got a little momentum,'' Frost said. "You get to 2-0, and who knows what happens?''
Instead, the Buckeyes quickly landed a combination, scoring twice in a span of 19 seconds for a 2-1 lead.
Matthews, on a rush with Jenn Gardiner, tapped in Gardiner's cross-ice pass to tie the score 1-1 at 9:27. Hartmentz then gave OSU the lead when her shot found defenseman Emily Oden's stick and ramped in past Vetter at 9:46.
"Sometimes that's just hockey,'' Wethington said. "You had the hockey gods against you, and you have the hockey gods for you. We hit quite a few pipes.''
The Gophers came out with more urgency in the second period, outshooting the Buckeyes 15-6, but couldn't get the equalizer despite having two power plays.
Only 29 seconds into the third, Rosenthal's goal stretched Ohio State's lead to 3-1. The Buckeyes tacked on goals by Hauswirth at 14:43 after Vetter lost the puck behind the net, and by Levis at 15:31.
Afterward, Frost saw the big picture.
"A split on the weekend against the No. 1 team in the country — everything we want is still in front of us,'' he said. "We're excited about that.''