Jeff Barnett / Lantern photographer
The No. 8 North Dakota women’s hockey team swept Ohio State this weekend, winning two physical games by a goal each.
OSU coach Jackie Barto sees these close losses as a positive, knowing her team is just one step away from getting over the top.
“I thought we competed hard and played six good periods this weekend,” Barto said.
The Buckeyes (14-14-2, 8-14-2-2 WCHA) have lost three games to the Fighting Sioux (17-8-3, 15-7-2-0 WCHA) by one goal this season, losing Friday, 4-3, in overtime and Saturday, 3-2.
“We need to take that step and get over that last hurdle in these games,” Barto said. “Stay positive, keep working and keep getting after it.”
On Saturday the Buckeyes led North Dakota in shots, 32-31, but failed to cash in on five power-play opportunities.
“The power play never really got settled,” Barto said. “It’s a combination of winning face-offs, winning battles, outnumbering the puck, having good retrieval skills and then having the poise to set your power play up under pressure.”
The referees had to break up a number of skirmishes over the weekend after a few big hits and several rushes on goal left players down on the ice.
“We knew we were in a war and we had to battle,” Barto said. “North Dakota’s a physical team and the refs let them play.”
Junior forward Laura McIntosh continued to shine, adding two more points to her career assists record and cashing in a goal this weekend.
With the Buckeyes down, 1-0, on Saturday, McIntosh led a three-on-one breakaway that featured a nifty pass across the crease to junior defenseman Kelly Wild, who passed it back across the crease where sophomore forward Paige Semenza buried the puck in the net to tie the game.
“When everyone gets involved it’s good for the team,” McIntosh said. “I think this weekend we played really well and a lot of people were involved.”
The Buckeyes ran out of time in both games, though, as North Dakota scored with seconds left in overtime Friday night, and the Buckeyes failed to score in the third period Saturday.
“Getting down to the end of the season we’re just gonna have to keep working hard,” McIntosh said. “Other teams know that we work hard, so if we keep doing that and battling through we’ll be good the rest of the way.”
The Buckeyes host Minnesota Duluth (16-7-3, 14-7-3 WCHA) at 7 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday at the OSU Ice Rink.
“We need to keep our heads up,” senior defenseman Shannon Reilly said. “We played two awesome games this weekend and we didn’t get the bounces we wanted. I think that we can carry how hard everyone worked and gave 110 percent on every shift into next weekend and then the following weekend to come.”