Home ice still up for grabs for WCHA First Round Playoffs with Ohio State two points out of fourth place

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State women’s hockey team hits the road for the first time in three weeks, traveling to Minnesota Duluth to take on the No. 2/3-ranked Bulldogs, Feb. 12-13. Games begin at 7 p.m. (CT) Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday at the DECC.

The Buckeyes (14-12-4, 11-11-2-0 WCHA) have split their last three series, including a 2-1 (OT) win and 7-2 loss vs. North Dakota last weekend at the OSU Ice Rink. UMD (21-7-2, 17-5-2-1 WCHA) is coming off a sweep of archrival Minnesota with 3-1 and 3-0 victories at the DECC.

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As the regular season nears its end for the WCHA, there is still much up in the air with home ice for the first round of league playoffs on the line. After a split with UND last weekend, the Buckeyes remain sixth in the conference standings with 24 points. However, a mere point separate third through sixth place between Wisconsin (27), Bemidji State (26) and St. Cloud State (25).

Minnesota leads the WCHA with 40 points, followed by Minnesota Duluth with 37. Rounding out the standings are Minnesota State (14) and North Dakota (12).

Ohio State split a home series with North Dakota, Feb. 5-6 at the OSU Ice Rink. The Buckeyes won the first game in overtime, 2-1, before falling 7-2 the next night.

Kim Theut lifted the Buckeyes to the win – their first in overtime while playing in their sixth extra session of the season. She was assisted by linemates Tina Hollowell and Paige Semenza 2:16 into OT. Ohio State opened the scoring 5 minutes into the game when Christina Mancuso scored during a scramble in front of the net. She was assisted by linemates Melissa Feste and Natalie Spooner.

In Saturday’s game, the Buckeyes had goals by Rachel Davis, with assists by Spooner and Mancuso, and Hokey Langan, assisted by Laura McIntosh and Kelly Wild.

• Ohio State is 1-1-4 in overtime games this season.
• The last OSU win in overtime was Feb. 24, 2007 in a 5-4 victory vs. Minnesota State.
• This was the first time Ohio State lost to North Dakota at the OSU Ice Rink. The Buckeyes are 10-1-1 all-time vs. the Sioux in Columbus.
• After being undefeated against UND for a 15-game span from 2004-08, Ohio State has split its season series with North Dakota the last two seasons.
• The seven goals allowed Saturday were a season-high.

The Buckeyes are without freshman forward Minttu Tuominen, who left Jan. 29 to meet up with the Finnish National Team in Colorado. After a week of practice and a couple of exhibition games, the squad traveled to Vancouver this week for the 2010 Winter Olympics that open Friday.

Tuominen joins Emma Laaksonen (2001-04), a fellow Finn playing in her fourth Olympics. Former OSU defensemen Tessa Bonhomme (2004-08) is on Team Canada while Lisa Chesson (2005-08) is on the United States squad. Complete bios on all four Buckeyes in the Olympics are on page 6 of the notes.

Ohio State’s offense is first overall in the WCHA and fifth in the NCAA with 3.17 goals per game.

Three players have 30 or more points: Hokey Langan (40), Laura McIntosh (32) and Natalie Spooner (32). A total of 13 Buckeyes have notched seven or more points. Langan leads the team with 19 goals and Spooner is second with 15 (4 gwg, 6 ppg). McIntosh leads in assists (24), followed by linemates Langan and Raelyn LaRocque with 21 each.

Rookie Chelsea Knapp has started 28 of 30 games in net with a 12-12-4 record, 2.94 GAA and .896 save percentage.

The goal scored by Hokey Langan last Saturday vs. North Dakota was her 40th point of the season. She is just the third freshman in Buckeye history to tally 40 or more points in a season. She is tied with Kelli Halcisak (2000-01) and is five points away from breaking the record held by Jeni Creary (2001-02).

Sophomore forward Natalie Spooner has a point in eight of her last nine games with 12 points, including seven assists, in that span. After only collecting nine assists last season, the Scarborough, Ontario, native has 17 assists this year to rank fourth on the team.

Freshman Hokey Langan had one of the top games ever by a Buckeye Jan. 22, tying the Ohio State single-game records for goals (4) and points (5) in the Buckeyes’ 5-2 victory over Bemidji State. The forward from Chatham, Ontario, became only the second player at OSU to score four goals in a game and recorded just the fourth five-point performance in the team history.

The only other Buckeye to score four goals in a game was Natalie Spooner, Dec. 12, 2008 at Minnesota State. The last Buckeye to record a five-point performance in a game was Tessa Bonhomme (1g, 4a), Jan. 5, 2008 vs. North Dakota.

Senior co-captains Rachel Davis and Raelyn LaRocque are having career seasons in regards to offensive production. LaRocque has 27 points after beginning the year with a total of 27 in her previous three seasons. She also has more than doubled her career assists with 21.

Davis, who was primarily a defensive defenseman in her first three seasons, has season-bests in points (18) and assists (13). She entered the year with totals of 17 assists and 27 points.

Rookie forward Hokey Langan is in the midst of an outstanding freshman campaign. Among many notable achievements:
• She leads the Buckeyes in points (40) and goals (19) while tying for second in assists (21).
• She leads all NCAA freshman with 1.33 points per game (good for 11th overall in scoring average in the NCAA).
• Her 40 points lead the WCHA overall. She is second in goals and tied for sixth in assists.
• In WCHA-only games, Langan is first with 34 points and 18 goals. She has a 10-point lead over any other league rookie.

Just 58 games into her career, Natalie Spooner is moving up the Ohio State records for career goals. She currently has 36 goals to tie for seventh. Spooner also has worked her way into Ohio State’s WCHA career records, tying for sixth place with 30 goals against conference opponents.

With 71 points in her first 66 career games, Laura McIntosh entered the top 15 for Buckeye career points (T-13th) and top 10 for points by a forward (T-8th). She also broke into the top 10 in assists 52 after picking up one against North Dakota last weekend.

Freshman forward Paige Semenza has caught on to the college game with eight points on two goals and six assists in the last 12 games. The Pittston, Pa., native had just two points in her first 15 games.

The Bulldogs carry the longest unbeaten streak in the NCAA into this weekend’s series at 11 games (9-0-2). Minnesota Duluth, who moved up to Nos. 2 (tied) and 3 in this week’s rankings, has won all of its eight games so far in 2010. 

Leading UMD offensively is senior Emmanuelle Blais with 17 goals and 23 assist for 40 points. Just behind her are junior Laura Fridfinnson (16-22-38) and freshman Katherine Wilson (15-18-33). In net for the majority of the season has been rookie Jennifer Harss who is 19-7-2 with a 2.02 goals-against average and .936 save percentage.

Minnesota Duluth leads the all-time series with Ohio State by a 40-3-4 record, including a 17-2-1 lead in games at the DECC.

Ohio State dropped both games in an earlier meeting this season, Nov. 13-14, in Columbus. The Buckeyes fell in an overtime heart-breaker, 3-2, and fell 5-3 in the next night. Laura McIntosh (2g, 2a) and Hokey Langan (1g, 3a) led OSU with four points apiece.

The Buckeyes returns home for its final regular-season series. Ohio State faces St. Cloud State at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday. Prior to game two, OSU will honor its seniors: Rachel Davis, Raelyn LaRocque and Michele Tonnessen.