Often, when a team misses as many chances as Ohio State did Saturday afternoon at the National Hockey Center, the missed opportunities come back to haunt them.
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, that wasn’t the case. Despite dominating nearly every facet of the game, Ohio State (7-12-2 overall, 5-6-2 WCHA) was only able to escape with a 1-0 victory over St. Cloud State (6-15-0, 3-12-0).
The Buckeyes missed the net with more shot attempts (40) than the Huskies had total attempts (36). Although OSU head coach Jackie Barto gave St. Cloud State plenty of credit for blocking 18 shots, she felt her team could have done more to generate more offense.
“I think our decision-making with our shots, where and when to shoot and being more patient can be better,” she said. “But this is a confidence booster for us. We’ve lost five games by one goal so we needed to win a game like that.”
The win was the Buckeyes’ first in six one-goal games this season and came on a late goal in the first period.
A lackluster opening stanza was capped off when the Buckeyes’ Jeanne Chapple scored with seven seconds to play in the opening frame. After getting the puck Shana Frost in the right corner, Chapple took the puck to the net, stepped across the goal line and scored from beneath the faceoff circle. St. Cloud State goalie Laura Gieselman appeared to have stopped the shot initially but it trickled behind her for what would prove to be the game’s lone goal.
“I thought that was a back-breaker for them a little bit,” Barto said. “We’ve got, as part of our plan, that we don’t want to give up a goal in the last five minutes of a period.”
The Huskies appeared to have taken a 1-0 lead at 7:43 of the first period but Roxy Stang’s deflection from the left on the crease was ruled to have been kicked and the game remained scoreless.
For Gieselman’s part, she made a number of quality saves to keep her team in the game. Despite only having a 23-19 edge in shots on goal, the Buckeyes had an advantage in quality chances.
“It got a bit crowded at times because they like to keep two people down in front of the net,” she said. “It gets a little tough keeping them out at times but I got a lot of help from my defense.”
On the other end of the ice, OSU goalie April Stojak recorded her second shutout of the season but saw far less action, which can be distracting for some goalies because of the inactivity.
“I don’t think it’s that much of a change from what it’s been like all year,” Stojak said. “Our defense has been playing well and keeping the shots under 20 a lot. You just have to keep your focus and stay on your toes.”
Although St. Cloud State coach Jason Lesteberg thought his team could have done more offensively, he was quick to credit an OSU defense that is allowing just 22 shots on goal per game.
“They’re a team that works hard for 60 minutes,” he said. “They really limit a team’s scoring chances. They’re a good defensive team but it’s a group of five that play well defensively. It’s tough to get inside their defensive zone set up and really get some scoring chances. When we did, we just couldn’t capitalize.”
Sitting in seventh place in the league standings, five points out of playoff position and six points behind the Buckeyes, this weekend’s series is important for both teams and all are aware of what this weekend’s points mean in the long run.
“We need to get some points,” Gieselman said. “Coming in they were four points ahead of us and that was from when they swept us down there.”
“I think it’s huge,” Barto said of Sunday’s game. “When we go to bed tonight and wake up in the morning, we’ve got to be thinking about the most important game of our season, which is tomorrow’s game.”
For the Huskies to win, Lesteberg said his team will need to play hard and play well the entire game.
“We need to play 60 minutes tomorrow,” Lesteberg added. “We played terrible in the first and, in the second, we got caught making bad breakout passes and creating unforced turnovers.”
The two teams conclude their series at the National Hockey Center.