Three points separate Buckeyes and Beavers in critical WCHA series Friday and Saturday at OSU Ice Rink

COLUMBUS, Ohio – After back-to-back weekends on the road, the Ohio State women’s hockey team (11-9-4, 8-8-2-0 WCHA) will have the comfort of home ice for three-consecutive series beginning with a matchup against Bemidji State (7-11-6, 6-6-6-3 WCHA), Jan. 22-23.

It is a critical Western Collegiate Hockey Association matchup as three points separate the fifth-place Buckeyes and Beavers, who are tied for third. Ohio State is coming off a road sweep of Minnesota State while Bemidji State twice tied league-leading Minnesota but dropped the extra point by losing the shootouts.

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Ohio State took four points from Minnesota State with 6-0 and 3-2 victories, Jan. 15-16 at All Seasons Arena in Mankato.

Two season firsts were recorded Friday when Chelsea Knapp stopped all 26 shots faced for the first shutout and Minttu Tuominen scored three goals for the Buckeyes’ first hat trick. Natalie Spooner, Paige Semenza and Christina Mancuso also had goals for Ohio State, who scored all six goals in the first two periods. A total of nine Buckeyes had points in the game, including five with multiple-point performances.

Ohio State rallied with two goals in the third period for the come-from-behind 3-2 victory to complete the sweep. Spooner scored the game-tying goal and 36 seconds later rookie Hokey Langan netted the gamewinner. Langan also scored the Buckeyes’ first goal in the opening stanza.
• The Buckeyes are 37-7-4 all-time against MSU and 17-3-2 all-time in Mankato. It was the second sweep vs. the Mavericks this season after 7-6 and 4-1 wins in Columbus (Oct. 30-31).
• In the first game, freshmen Tina Hollowell recorded the first two assists of her career while classmate Liz Rizzo tallied an assist for her first career point.

The hat trick by Minttu Tuominen last Friday was the first scored by a Buckeye since Laura McIntosh had one Feb. 20, 2009 also vs. Minnesota State. Overall, Tuominen’s hat trick was the 17th scored by an Ohio State player. She entered the game with three goals in her first 16 games played.

The shutout by Chelsea Knapp was the first blanking of a Buckeye opponent since a 3-0 win against Bemidji State, Oct. 24, 2008 in Columbus. It also was first time the Buckeyes have held an opponent scoreless on the road since a 3-0 win at St. Cloud State, March 1, 2008 in a first-round WCHA playoff series.

With four goals in the second period against Minnesota State last Friday, the Buckeyes tied the team record for goals scored in a period. It is the second time they have done so in 2010, also scoring four in the first period vs. Robert Morris (Jan. 3).
Ohio State happily welcomed back sophomore Natalie Spooner and freshman Minttu Tuominen for the series vs. Minnesota State, and both were ready to go with three points apiece against the Mavericks.

The Buckeyes were without two forwards for the Minnesota series as 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 who will be playing in her fourth Olympics. Spooner and Team Canada won the gold medal.

Ohio State’s offense was back at full speed last weekend with nine goals and remains second overall in the WCHA and moved up to fourth in the NCAA with 3.29 goals per game. The Buckeyes also are in the national top 10 in penalty kill (4th, 90.2%) and power play (10th, 18.4%).

Four players have over 20 points: Hokey Langan (32), Laura McIntosh (25), Natalie Spooner (25) and Raelyn LaRocque (21). A total of 14 Buckeyes have notched six or more points. Langan and Spooner lead the team with 13 goals, with Spooner tallying four gamewinners and five on the power play. Langan has 19 assists followed by McIntosh (18) and LaRocque (16).

Rookie Chelsea Knapp has started 22 of 24 games in net with a 9-9-4 record, 2.92 GAA and .893 save percentage.

Sophomore forward Natalie Spooner was named WCHA Offensive Player of the Week announced Wednesday. It was the first offensive weekly award for the Scarborough, Ontario, native who collected a Buckeye-record four rookie of the week honors from the league last season.

After missing the previous series while playing with the gold medal-winning Canadian Under-22 Team at the MLP Cup in Germany, Spooner returned to the Buckeyes and had three points to help them sweep Minnesota State. She scored the third goal and assisted on the fifth in Ohio State’s 6-0 shutout of the Mavericks Friday. Trailing 2-1 heading into the third Saturday, Spooner scored the game-tying goal 4:59 into the period as the Buckeyes rallied for the 3-2 victory.

Senior co-captains Rachel Davis and Raelyn LaRocque are having career seasons in offensive production. LaRocque has 21 points after beginning the year with a total of 27 in her previous three seasons. With 16 assists, she is a helper away from doubling her career total.

Davis, who was primarily a defensive defenseman in her first three seasons, has season-bests in points (16) and assists (12). 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 (32) and assists (19) while tying for the lead in goals (13). Langan has already broken into Ohio State’s top 10 in freshman scoring, ranking fifth.
• She is just the sixth Buckeye to post 30 or more points their rookie season, joining Laura McIntosh (39) and Natalie Spooner (30) who reached the milestone last season.
• She leads all NCAA freshman with 1.33 points per game (good for tie for 11th overall in scoring average in the NCAA).
• Her 32 points are tied for second in the WCHA overall. She is tied for first in assists (19), tied for sixth in goals (13) and tied for sixth in power-play points (10).
• In WCHA-only games, Langan is first with 27 points and tied for second with 14 assists. She has a 11-point lead over any other rookie in the league.

Just 52 games into her young career, Natalie Spooner is moving up the Ohio State records for career goals. She currently has 34 goals to tie for eighth with former Buckeye All-American Emma Laaksonen (2001-04). Spooner previously worked her way into Ohio State’s WCHA career records in seventh place with 28 goals against conference opponents.

With 64 points in her first 60 career games, Laura McIntosh is three points away from entering the top 15 for Buckeye career points and top 10 for points by a forward. She also needs six helpers to break into the top 10 in career assists with 46 so far.

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

In the series at Minnesota (Jan. 8-9), the Buckeyes were limited to just two goals – the fewest they have scored in a series this season. They entered the weekend averaging 6.80 goals in their previous 10 series.

The shutout of Ohio State was the first blanking 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 3.29 per game.

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.

The games vs. the Gophers was the first time Langan was held off the score sheet for back-to-back contests. She has just four games without a point this season. She was back at it starting another streak last weekend vs. Minnesota State with an assist in game one and two goals in game two.

After finishing last in the WCHA in 2008-09 with a 3-22-3-2 league mark, Bemidji State has rebounded this season and finds itself tied for third with 21 points on a 6-6-6-3 record. In the fourth season under the direction of head coach Steve Sertich, the Beavers are 3-1-4 in their last eight games.

A key for BSU’s success has been sophomore goalie Zuzana Tomcikova, who will soon be heading to the Winter Olympics with the Slovakian National Team. She has a 1.97 goals-against average and .941 save percentage with a 7-8-5 record.

The Buckeyes lead the all-time series vs. Bemidji State with a 25-12-7 mark, including a 13-5-2 lead in the OSU Ice Rink. Ohio State took three points from the Beavers earlier this season, winning 5-2 and tying 2-2 Oct. 16-17 in Bemidji. The five goals scored by OSU in game one ties for the most goals BSU netminder Zuzana Tomcikova has allowed this season.

Three players lead Ohio State in scoring against the Beavers with seven points: Natalie Spooner (4g, 3a), Raelyn LaRocque (2g, 5a) and Shannon Reilly (2g, 5a). Laura McIntosh has six assists in six games vs. Bemidji State, while Minttu Tuominen earned WCHA rookie of the week honors with three points in her first meeting with the Beavers earlier this season.

Ohio State’s penalty kill has kept opponents scoreless in 35 of their last 38 attempts, including a perfect 8-of-8 mark against Minnesota State. The OSU PK is 101-of-112 for the season for 90.2 percent, good for second in the WCHA and fourth in the NCAA.

Ohio State continues its homestand with a series against defending NCAA champion Wisconsin, Jan. 29-30. Games begin at 7 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday at the OSU Ice Rink.