Forwards Spooner and Tuominen return from MLP Cup as Ohio State battles Mavericks in Mankato

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State women’s hockey team travels to the state of Minnesota for the second-consecutive weekend, this time to take on Minnesota State, Jan. 15-16. Games begin at 7 p.m. (CT) Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday at All Seasons Arena in Mankato.

The Buckeyes (9-9-4, 6-8-2-0 WCHA) are looking to rebound from a sweep at the hands of No. 2 Minnesota last weekend. The Mavericks (4-11-5, 2-9-5-3) enter the series off a shootout win at Bemidji State after a 2-2 tie. MSU was then shutout, 3-0.

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The then-10th ranked Buckeyes ended their four-game unbeaten streak with a 5-2 loss to No. 2 Minnesota and the Gophers then completed the sweep with a 6-0 victory, Jan. 8-9, at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.

Scoring for Ohio State in the first game were senior Rachel Davis (unassisted) and sophomore Kim Theut (from freshman Paige Semenza) in the first period as the team held a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. Minnesota scored four unanswered goals over the second and third periods for the win.

The shutout Saturday was the first time Ohio State had been held without a goal this season. Sophomore goalie Barbara Bilko entered the game halfway through the second period for her first appearance of the season. In the last 27:26 of the game she made 13 saves with a career-low two goals-allowed.

• Last time Ohio State was shut out was a 7-0 loss to Wisconsin in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, Feb. 27, 2009.
• Freshman Chelsea Knapp recorded her fifth game with 30 or more saves Friday with 32.
• After two points in the first 15 games of her career, Paige Semenza has four points in the last four games.
• Barbara Bilko has three career appearances in net, all against Minnesota. Her last appearance was almost a year ago exactly (Jan. 10, 2009).
• Kim Theut was issued a 10-minute misconduct in the third period in game two – the first for Ohio State this season.

Ohio State was without two forwards for the Minnesota series – sophomore Natalie Spooner and freshman Minttu Tuominen. Both Spooner, with the Canadian Under-22 Team, and Tuominen, with the Finnish National Team, were competing in the 2010 MLP Cup, Jan. 5-9 in Germany. Tuominen played with former Buckeye All-American Emma Laaksonen, a Team Finland veteran vying for her fourth Olympics. Spooner and Team Canada won the gold medal last Saturday.

Despite being held to just two goals last weekend, Ohio State is still second overall in the WCHA and sixth in the NCAA in scoring with 3.18 goals per game. The Buckeyes also are in the national top 10 in power play (8th, 19.4%) and penalty kill (9th, 89.4%).

Three players have 20 or more points: Hokey Langan (29), Laura McIntosh (22) and Natalie Spooner (22). A total of 13 Buckeyes have notched six or more points. Langan and Spooner lead the team with 11 goals, with Spooner tallying four gamewinners. Langan has 18 assists followed by McIntosh (15) and Raelyn LaRocque (14).

Rookie Chelsea Knapp has started 20 of 22 games in net with a 7-9-4 record, 3.12 GAA and .887 save percentage.

Last weekend vs. Minnesota, the Buckeyes were limited to just two goals in the series – the fewest they have scored in a series this season. They entered the weekend averaging 6.80 goals in their previous 10 series.

The blanking of Ohio State last Saturday was the first shutout of the season for a team that has been in the top 10 in NCAA scoring offense throughout the season. The Buckeyes have only twice been held to a single goal and average 3.18 per game.

Former defenseman Emma Laaksonen and current forward Minttu Tuominen were named to the Finnish Women’s National Team to compete in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. The team was officially announced Wednesday with Laaksonen making her fourth appearance in the Olympics while Tuominen, in her freshman season with the Buckeyes, is making her first. Both are natives of Espoo, Finland.

Ohio State’s first All-America selection in 2002, Laaksonen has been a cornerstone in the development of women’s hockey in Finland. She has served in various leadership roles, including co-captain of the team at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Turin, and in 1998 helped Team Finland to the bronze medal to become the youngest Olympian to medal for the country at 16 years old. Finland has finished fourth at the 2002 and ’06 games.

Tuominen has competed with the Finnish National Team throughout the last two years, including two international competitions during the 2009-10 season. She recently returned from the 2010 MLP Cup in Ravensburg, Germany, and also played in the 2009 Four Nations Cup last November in Finland. It was her second appearance with the national team in both events.

While Ohio State was on winter break, two former Buckeyes were named to their country’s Olympic teams. Lisa Chesson and Tessa Bonhomme will be the first Buckeye women’s hockey products to represent the United States and Canada, respectively, in the Olympics.

Chesson, a defenseman for Ohio State from 2005-08, has been named to the U.S. Olympic Women’s Team, USA Hockey announced in a ceremony Dec. 17. A native of Plainfield, Ill., Chesson participated in the Team USA’s residency program during 2008-09 in Blaine, Minn., and was a member of the gold medal-winning U.S. Women’s National Team at the 2009 IIHF World Women’s Championships last April.

Bonhomme, a two-time All-America defenseman for Ohio State from 2004-08, has been nominated to the Canadian National Women’s Team for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games announced by Hockey Canada Dec. 21. The team will be competing for its third-consecutive gold medal at the Olympics in Vancouver. A native of Sudbury, Ontario, Bonhomme is one of seven members of the team making their first appearance in the Games.

NOTE: The equipment manager for the U.S. Women’s Olympic Team will be Jim Jeans, equipment manager for the Ohio State women’s hockey team. This is his first Olympics after serving as equipment manager for various U.S. Women’s National and Select Teams over the last three years. Jeans has been equipment manager for the Buckeyes since the 2005-06 season.

Rookie forward Hokey Langan was held without a point in the Minnesota series, ending her point streak at 14 games (dating back to Oct. 16). The Chatham, Ontario, native tied for the second-longest streak in Buckeye history with Jana Harrigan (2003-06). Harrigan, Ohio State’s all-time leading scorer, also holds the team record for longest point streak at 17 games.

Last weekend vs. the Gophers was the first time Langan was held off the score sheet for back-to-back games. She has just four games without a point this season.

Rookie forward Hokey Langan is in the midst of an outstanding freshman campaign. Among many notable achievements:
• She leads the Buckeyes in points (29) and assists (18) while tying for the lead in goals (11). Langan has already broken into Ohio State’s top 10 in freshman scoring, ranking sixth.
• She leads all NCAA freshman with 1.32 points per game (good for 11th overall in scoring average in the NCAA).
• Her 29 points are third in the WCHA overall. She is tied for first in assists (18), tied for seventh in goals (11) and tied for sixth in power-play points (9).
• In WCHA-only games, Langan is third with 24 points (a point back from the leaders) and 14 assists. She has a 10-point margin over any other rookie in the league.

Against three nonconference opponents this season, Melissa Feste has racked up the points. Among her career-high 10 goals this season, the sophomore from Bloomington, Minn., scored eight of them against non-WCHA foes. She scored twice at Boston University (Oct. 2-3), three vs. St. Lawrence (Nov. 20-21) and three against Robert Morris (Jan. 2-3). Feste finished with a total of 10 points in nonconference games compared to eight points against WCHA opponents.

Natalie Spooner had a goal vs. Robert Morris (Jan. 3) to break into the Top 10 in Ohio State’s career goals category. She has 32 goals in 50 career games to tie Jennifer Desson (2002-05), who ranks 10th in the Buckeye records. Spooner previously worked her way into Ohio State’s WCHA career records in seventh place with 26 goals against conference opponents.

Spooner has a career-high 11 assists 20 games into this season. She had nine helpers total as a freshman.

The Mavericks started the season 3-2-2 under the direction of first-year head coach Eric Means, but have gone 1-9-3 since early November. Senior Ashley Young has a team-high 14 points and is tied for the lead in assists with freshman Lauren Smith at nine each. Smith and Emmi Leinonen are second in points with 13, while Leinonen has a MSU-best eight goals.

Patrolling the Minnesota State net the majority of the season has been sophomore Alli Altmann with a 4-8-4 record, 2.92 goals-against average and .900 save percentage.

Ohio State leads the all-time series with Minnesota State by a 35-7-4 record, including a 15-3-2 mark in Mankato. However, the Mavericks have swept the Buckeyes twice since Nov. 2007.

OSU took both games in the first meeting of the season in Columbus by scores of 7-6 and 4-1, Oct. 30-31. Hokey Langan was named WCHA Rookie of the Week after leading Ohio State with six points (3g, 3a), followed by Natalie Spooner and Laura McIntosh with five points apiece.

In six career games against the Mavericks, Spooner (8g, 5a) and McIntosh (6g, 7a) both have 13 points.

The second game at St. Cloud State (Dec. 12) was the first game for the Buckeyes with multiple power-play goals since a 2-of-5 performance Oct. 31 vs. Minnesota State. The two PP goals ended a five-game streak without a power play goal, going 0-of-11 in that span.

The Buckeye PP is operating at 19.4 percent (18-of-93) to rank second overall in the WCHA and eighth in the NCAA.

Ohio State’s penalty kill has kept opponents scoreless in 27 of their last 30 attempts, including a 5-of-6 mark against one of the top power plays in the nation at Minnesota. The OSU PK is 93-of-104 for the season for 89.4 percent – good for third in the WCHA and ninth in the NCAA.

Head coach Jackie Barto announced the signing of five recruits to National Letters of Intent for the 2010-11 season.

 Name  Pos.  Ht.  Hometown  Team
 Becky Allis  D  5-8  West Olive, Mich.  Chicago Mission
 Maddie Marcotte  D  5-8  White Bear Lake, Minn.  White Bear Lake
 Lisa Steffes  G  5-4  Amherstburg, Ontario   Bluewater Jr. Hawks
 Annie Svedin  D  5-4  Soraker, Sweden  MODO Örnsköldsvik
 Ally Tarr  F  5-5  London, Ontario   Bluewater Jr. Hawks

A few times this season Ohio State and individual Buckeyes have achieved something not done in a while:
• Junior Christina Mancuso scored shorthanded vs. Robert Morris (Jan. 2). The last time the Buckeyes scored a shorthanded goal was Nov. 15, 2008 vs. Minnesota Duluth, the only one of the season, by Natalie Spooner. Mancuso’s goal also snapped her 35-game scoreless streak. Her last goal was scored Nov. 29, 2008 at St. Lawrence.
• Junior defenseman Teal Bishop netted her first goal in 44 games when she scored in the season-opener at BU (Oct. 3).
• Junior forward Jenna Kilpatick broke a scoring drought when she lit the lamp at Bemidji State (Oct. 16). She also ended a 44-game goal-less streak.
• Ohio State’s 4-3 win over Wisconsin (Oct. 23) ended a 21-game winless streak against the Badgers. The last victory over UW was Oct. 23, 2004 in Columbus and the last win in Madison was Nov. 1, 2003.

After back-to-back weekends in Minnesota, the Buckeyes return to Columbus for a three-week homestand. It begins with a WCHA series vs. Bemidji State, Jan. 22-23. Games begin at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday at the OSU Ice Rink.