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Ohio State falls, 5-4, to Gophers in WCHA Final Faceoff semifinal game, ends season 17-15-5

MINNEAPOLIS – The Ohio State women’s hockey team battled No. 3 Minnesota for over 83 minutes, but dropped a double-overtime heartbreaker to the Golden Gophers, 5-4, in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Faceoff semifinal game Saturday at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. The game spanned 3 hours, 9 minutes and was played in front of a crowd of 1,252 fans.

Ohio State, who tied for fifth in the WCHA standings and upset defending NCAA champ Wisconsin last weekend in the first-round playoffs, concludes its 2009-10 season with a 17-15-5 overall record (12-13-3-1 WCHA).

Freshman goalie Chelsea Knapp (15-15-5) had a stellar performance in net, coming up with several big stops while collecting a season-high 43 saves. Senior forward Raelyn LaRocque closed her career on a high note with two goals, including the game-tying goal in the last minute to send it into overtime.

The teams only exchanged one goal apiece in the first two periods. The Buckeyes opened the scoring 6:35 into the game just as they were coming off a power play. Sophomore defenseman Brittany Carlson ripped a shot from the just over the blue line and went through traffic and zipped into the back of the net off a single-assist by freshman Hokey Langan.

After great scoring opportunities and outstanding saves by both goaltenders, Minnesota capitalized on a power play opportunity to even the score at 1-1 in the second period. Time was winding down when Brittany Francis, stationed at the left post, knocked in a pass through the slot by Megan Bozak with 1:37 left in the stanza.

The game remained tied at 1-1 until the teams each scored three times in the last 8 minutes of regulation, including a 6-on-4 goal by LaRocque with 18 seconds left to send it into overtime.

The scoring flurry began with a Kelli Blankenship putting in a rebound from the slot at 11:55, but Ohio State answered 12 seconds later to tie it up again when LaRocque charged to the net and jam the rebound of a shot by sophomore Natalie Spooner. Freshman Paige Semenza set up Spooner to collect the second assist.

OSU regained the lead at 3-2 when, while on the penalty kill, Spooner skated through three Gophers and slipped the puck in 5-hole at 16:45 for the unassisted shorthanded goal.

Minnesota came back to knot the score again at 17:25 when it took advantage of a 5-on-3 power play with Francis swarming in for the goal. The Gophers then went up 4-3 at 18:31 when Anne Schleper tucked the puck under the crossbar off a pass by Aexandra Zebro.

With the game entering the final minute, the Buckeyes went on a power play and called a timeout. Knapp was pulled for an extra skater, giving OSU a 6-on-4 advantage – a move that proved successful with 18 seconds left when LaRocque tapped in the rebound off a shot from the point by sophomore Laura McIntosh with the second assist from Langan. The goal tied it at 4-4 and sent the Buckeyes into overtime for the fourth game in a row.

After a scoreless 20-minute overtime session that featured each teams hitting a post, the teams entered another OT period. The game came to an end 3:31 into the second overtime, when Laura May backhanded the puck into the goal from the left post.

For the game, Minnesota had a 48-39 advantage in shots. Gopher goalie Noora Raty, who recently returned to the team after backstopping Finland to the Olympic bronze medal, had 35 saves and is 17-2-4. Ohio State was 1-of-4 on the power play and 4-of-6 on the penalty kill.

Game Notes:

  • This was the first WCHA conference tournament semifinal the Buckeyes played in since 2007. They have advanced to the championship game once in 2001. OSU is 13-18 all-time in postseason games.
  • Minnesota was the only WCHA team Ohio State did not beat in the 2009-10 season.
  • Ohio State played in a school-record 11 overtime games this season and was 3-3-5. The Buckeyes also had 18 games decided by one goal and were 9-9 in those contests.
  • This was Ohio State’s fourth-consecutive overtime game and the team went into overtime in six of their last nine games of the season.
  • It was the fifth overtime game the Buckeyes have played in 11 years of postseason hockey, but the first that went into double OT.
  • Chelsea Knapp made 883 saves her freshman campaign, just three shy of the record set last season by Liana Bonanno.
  • Hokey Langan finished up her rookie year with 53 points – the second-highest Buckeye point total in a season and only one point away from tying the record set by Jana Harrigan (2004-05). Langan had 25 goals and 28 assists.