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2011 WCHA Playoffs – First Round
Ohio State BUCKEYES (14-17-3, 8-17-3-3 WCHA) vs.
Minnesota GOLDEN GOPHERS (23-8-2, 18-8-2-1 WCHA)
Friday, Feb. 25 – 6 p.m. (CT)
Saturday, Feb. 26 – 5 p.m. (CT)
Sunday, Feb. 27 – 4 p.m. (CT) – *if necessary
Ridder Arena • Minneapolis, Minn.

Live Stats: GopherSports.com
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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The sixth-seed Ohio State women’s hockey team begins postseason play with a best-of-three WCHA First Round Playoff series at third-seed Minnesota, Feb. 25-27 at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, Minn. Game one begins at 6 p.m. (CT) Friday, game two at 5 p.m. (CT) Saturay and game three (if necessary at 4 p.m. (CT) Sunday.

The Buckeyes (14-17-3, 8-17-3-3 WCHA) finished the regular season sixth in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings with 30 points. The Golden Gophers (23-8-2, 18-8-2-1 WCHA) tied with Minnesota Duluth for second in the conference,  but the Bulldogs held a 2-1-1 advantage in the four-game head-to-head regular season series to earn the No. 2 seed, while Minnesota claimed the No. 3 seed.

UP FOR GRABS
On the line this weekend for all eight conference teams are spots in the WCHA Final Faceoff. The four teams who win their best-of-three series will advance to the single-game semifinals, March 4. The winner of those will play for the championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, March 5. The University of Minnesota will host the WCHA Final Faceoff at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.

A REMATCH OF 2010 WCHA SEMIFINAL
Last season, the Buckeyes faced the Golden Gophers in the semifinals of the WCHA playoffs, dropping a double-overtime 5-4 heartbreaker March 7 in Minneapolis. The game spanned three hours, nine minutes and was played in front of a crowd of 1,252 fans. Ohio State advanced to the the semifinas after upsetting 2009 NCAA champion Wisconsin in the first round of the playsoffs.

This year, the Golden Gophers were 4-0 against the Buckeyes. Minnesota won 6-0 and 2-1 (OT) at home vs. Ohio State Dec. 10 and Dec. 12 and won 4-2 and 8-1 in Columbus Jan. 21-22. The Buckeyes will look to snap a 15-game winless streak vs. the Golden Gophers.

BUCKEYES IN A NUTSHELL
Ohio State is averaging 2.79 goals per game, while allowing an average of 3.21. The Buckeye special teams are operating at 16.3 percent on the power play (24-of-146) and 80.0 percent on the penalty kill (100-of-125).

Leading the Buckeyes in points and assists is Laura McIntosh, with 45 and 33, respectively. Natalie Spooner has scored a team-high 26 goals, including 10 on the power play, and has 39 points. Hokey Langan is second in assists and goals and third in points with a 13-17-30 line. Patrolling the OSU net is freshman Lisa Steffes, who is 14-17-2 with a 3.09 GAA and .906 save percentage.

LAST TIME OUT: BEMIDJI STATE
Ohio State went 0-1-1 at Bemidji State Feb. 18-19 to close out the regular season. The Buckeyes were led by Natalie Spooner, who tallied a goal and an assist in the series vs. the Beavers.

In game one, Ohio State fell, 4-1, after Bemidji State took a commanding 3-0 lead midway through the second period. Highlighting the contest for the Buckeyes was senior forward Jenna Kilpatrick, who scored her first goal of the season at 18:03 with assists from Kim Theut and Spooner.

In game two, the Scarlet and Gray rallied to tie the game, 1-1, in the period and went on to win the three-round shootout, 1-0. Spooner tied the game at 6:50 in the third period with assists from freshman Ally Tarr and junior Melissa Feste. After skating through a scoreless overtime session, the Buckeyes picked up another point in conference play as Spooner scored the lone shootout goal against BSU goaltender Zuzana Tomcikova.

Bemidji State Series Notes:

  • Junior forward Natalie Spooner moved to second on the all-time career goals list with 69 goals, passing former Buckeye Jana Harrigan (2003-06). 
  • Freshman goalie Lisa Steffes recorded 77 saves in the series vs. the Beavers to cap the 1,000-saves mark to conclude the regular season. Steffes, who holds the single-season program record for saves with 1,016 stops, is the only goalie in the nation to have at least 1,000 saves in 2011.

STEFFES BREAKS SAVES RECORD
With her 31 saves in game one vs. the Bulldogs Feb. 11, rookie goaltender Lisa Steffes broke the program’s single-season saves record, passing former Buckeye Liana Bonanno, who recorded 886 saves during the 2008-09 campaign. Steffes, currently with 1,016 saves, has made 30-plus saves in 20 games and has five games with over 40 saves. The Amherstburg, Ontario, native leads the NCAA with 1,016 saves this season and is the only goalie in the nation with more than 1,000 saves. She also leads in the NCAA in minutes played at 2039:35.

BIG MAC 
Junior forward Laura McIntosh is first on the all-time career assists record with 96 assists in less than three complete seasons as a Buckeye. The native of Waterloo, Ontario, broke the record on her first assist in game two at St. Cloud State Jan. 29 on a Natalie Spooner power-play goal at 6:10 in the second period.  Currently with 33 helpers this year, McIntosh has had back-to-back seasons with at least 30 assists. She is six assists shy of breaking Harrigan’s single-season assist record of 38 set during the 2004-05 campaign. 

SELECT COMPANY
Natalie Spooner entered elite company Jan. 21-22. After netting her 20th goal of the year, she is only the second Buckeye to have three 20-goal seasons in her career, joining Jeni Creary (2002-05).

The Scarborough, Ontario, native has eight multiple-goal performances and has tallied two or more points 14 times this year in 23 games played. Of her team-leading 26 goals, 10 have been scored on the power play and four are gamewinners. With her goal last weekend at Bemidji State, Spooner is now second on the all-time career goals list with 69 scores in less than three complete seasons.

A LOOK AT MINNESOTA
Minnesota clinched home ice for the first round of the playoffs after winning five of its last six games. Last time out, the Gophers fell, 5-3, vs. No. 8 North Dakota Feb. 19 in Grand Forks to conclude the regular season to split the series with the Fighting Sioux. 

Three of the top four point leaders for the Gophers are freshmen, including Amanda Kessel with a team-high 42 points (15g, 27a). Just behind her is Kelly Terry (14-22-36) and Sarah Davis has 29 points. In that mix is junior Sarah Erickson, who has a team-best 16 goals and totals 34 points. In the Minnesota net for most of the season is sophomore Nora Räty, who is 22-6-2 with a 1.57 GAA and a .947 save percentage.

BUCKEYES VS. GOPHERS
Minnesota leads the all-time series at 44-8-1, with a 21-3-0 advantage in Columbus. The
Buckeyes are looking to snap a 15-game losing streak to Minnesota. The last OSU win in the
series was Oct. 20, 2007.

Leading Ohio State offensively vs. the Gophers are Natalie Spooner with 12 points (4g, 8a) in 11 games and Laura McIntosh with nine points (2g, 7a) in 13 games. 

WHEN LAST WE MET
Ohio State lost two games at home to the Gophers Jan. 21-22 at the OSU Ice Rink. Minnesota came from behind to defeat the Buckeyes, 4-2, in game one, while winning game two by a score of 8-1. 

In game one, junior Melissa Feste scored 21 seconds into the game to give OSU an early 1-0 lead. Freshman Ally Tarr put Ohio State ahead, 2-1, scoring at 5:18 in the third period. However, Minnesota began its comeback of three goals in a 2 minute, 40 second span at 10:26 when Sarah Erickson, Megan Bozak and Anne Schleper posted goals. Junior forward Natalie Spooner had two assists in the contest. In game two, Spooner scored the lone goal for the Buckeyes at 12:14 in the second period to erase the shutout on a power play with assists from Hokey Langan and Laura McIntosh.

REILLY RETURNS TO FORM
After 24 points as a freshman and 19 as a sophomore, Shannon Reilly had a tough season last year with only 11. However, the Chanhassen, Minn., native has found the scoring touch once again this season. She is tied for third in the WCHA overall in defenseman scoring with 22 points and is 16th in the NCAA with 0.69 points per game. Reilly ranks fourth on the Buckeyes with 14 assists and has a personal-high for goals with eight.

FRESHMAN SUCCESS
Freshman Ally Tarr has become a factor in the Buckeye offense in the second half of the season. The forward from London, Ontario, scored the gamewinning goal in the final minute vs. the Huskies Jan. 29 to give her team a 3-2 victory and the series sweep. In game one, Tarr recorded her first-career multi-goal performance with two in the Buckeyes 6-1 victory. Her 14 points this season lead all Buckeye freshmen in scoring, with seven points in the last eight games.

ANGER MANAGEMENT
This season, the Buckeyes have had limited minutes in the penalty box with an average of only 8.7 penalty minutes per game – good for 26th in the nation and the second-lowest average in the WCHA overall. Ohio State has drawn four or fewer penalties in 20 of its games this season.

The average is a stark contrast to the last four seasons when the Buckeyes have placed in the top 10 in the NCAA in PIM, peaking at 15.3 in 2006-07 and with an average of 13.8 in that span.

KUEHL NAMED A FINALIST FOR MINNESOTA MS. HOCKEY
Future Buckeye Taylor Kuehl, a native of Minnetrista, Minn., is one of five finalists for the 2011 Minnesota Ms. Hockey Award, which will be presented to the top senior girls’ high school hockey player of Minnesota. The first ever Ms. Hockey finalist from Mound Westonka, Kuehl wrapped up her high school career this week with the Whitehawks’ Section 5A semifinal loss to Breck. Kuehl is one of the state’s most prolific scorers with totals of 52-50–102 in 27 games to rank second in the state in points and goals. She helped her squad to a 20-7-0 record and the No. 6 ranking in Class A.

The winner will be announced at the Ms. Hockey Awards Banquet at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 27, at the RiverCentre in St. Paul.

NOTEWORTHY

  • Laura McIntosh tied the Ohio State record for points in a game with five points (3g, 2a), Oct. 16 vs. St. Cloud State. She is just the fifth Buckeye to reach that mark.
  • Ohio State was 4-of-7 on the power play Oct. 22 at Wisconsin. The last time the Buckeyes scored four power play goals in a game was Oct. 6, 2006 vs. Northeastern (4-of-4).
  • Lisa Steffes made 44 and 43 saves at Wisconsin (Oct. 22-23) for the first time in the 12-year history of the program an OSU netminder had back-to-back games with 40-plus saves.
  • In the second game at Minnesota Duluth (Nov. 20), Steffes became only the third OSU goalie to reach the 50-save milestone and was only four shy of tying the record.
  • The 4-2 victory at Minnesota Duluth Nov. 19, combined with a 6-3 win in their last meeting of 2009-10, gave Ohio State back-to-back wins against the Bulldogs for the first time in 50
    meetings.
  • The rescheduled game Dec. 11 to the 12th at Minnesota because of a snow storm in the Twin Cities was the first time Ohio State had a game postponed in program history.
  • The Buckeyes finished with a 6-0-0 mark in non-conference action, all against teams from College Hockey America: Robert Morris, Syracuse and Wayne State