Mavericks fall short in defeating defending champs

The Minnesota State University, Mankato women’s hockey team couldn’t finish how they started this past weekend, dropping two hard-fought games to open their 2022-23 campaign. The Mavericks hosted the defending National Champion Ohio State Buckeyes in a two-game series at home, starting both games playing very well, but couldn’t pull out a win in the end.

Friday’s home opener started strong with senior forward Kelsey King finding the net early. King scored within the first four minutes of the opening game, setting everything into motion from there on. The Buckeyes did not take long to return the favor, however, finding their first goal of the contest at the 9:54 mark of the first period.

OSU’s first goal of the game was scored by graduate forward, Gabby Rosenthal assisted by both Jennifer Gardiner and Emma Maltais. The first period ended 1-1 despite the Buckeyes leading in shots on goal 13 to the Mavericks’ six.

Early in the second period, OSU gave MSU another dagger. 1:50 into the second Gardiner scored which was ultimately the Mavs’ downfall for the rest of the game.

Going into the third, the Mavs had to get something rolling but just couldn’t connect. Throughout the game, the Mavericks had a lot of good looks but struggled to find the back of the net. Despite playing great defense while playing fast and physical, the Buckeyes wouldn’t let up, ending the game 2-1 with OSU having a 32 -16 shots advantage. 

 After the game, Minnesota State head coach John Harrington seemed optimistic about Lauren Barbo’s 30-save performance saying, “Nobody is more dedicated to training and keeping herself 100% healthy. She didn’t disappoint at all today and made some really good saves today on some really tough shots.” 

Harrington touched on the excitement before the season opener and the positivity he felt despite the loss, “I think our team was ready to play and you know they’re excited about it. There’s been a countdown list in our locker room since the season ended last year and all of a sudden it’s game day. They were excited and I was happy with the energy”. 

King touched on how the Mavs needed to play for Saturday’s game, “We want to bring more tomorrow. Beat them on rushes, use our speed, play physical,” said King. That is exactly what the Mavericks did. 

Despite Ohio State scoring first on Saturday, MSU turned it around and beat them on rushes early, using their speed. MSU senior defenseman, Anna Wilgren, took advantage of the first power play of the game and buried one into the net from the blue line. With the goal, Wilgren scored her first goal back from being away for a year with team USA. 

Following the goal, junior forward, Madison Mashuga and senior forward, Claire Butorac hit one-timer goals to finish off the first period. 

Going into the second period with a two-point lead, tensions were high, likely leading to either a shootout or a high-scoring game. OSU had to strike back, and they did. With the only goal of the second period, senior forward, Kenzie Hauswirth scored at the 9:28 minute mark, erasing MSU’s lead to one. 

The third period began and right away, Brooke Bryant found a way to score. She did this in the first two minutes and again, Mankato had a two-score lead. When everything seemed to be going well, Ohio states offense took over. They were relentless in the last period of regulation and spent most of the period in Maverick territory. They found our net three times and broke our two-score lead. The last goal happened with less than two minutes left in the game. This made the final score 3-4 with the Buckeyes escaping with the win. 

With the tough loss, Wilgren and Harrington agreed on how they need to learn from this and in the future, finish off the game. “It’s really a testament to how we have to learn how to win. We are up by two, twice in a game, there’s no really excuse for losing that. So when we are in the position, up by two, even one, like just locking in and understanding how responsible we have to play” stated Wilgren. Harrington added, “I give credit to their team, they played hard and scored goals and it was just disappointing in the end that we couldn’t function better and we need to learn to do that if we are going to be a championship team.”In spite of the loss, Harrington was very proud of the new young core of the team and the way they stepped up, “Our freshman defenseman played tremendous. I mean Lilie Ramirez and Kianna Roeske did a great job in there and were out there like every shift and they got baptized by fire out there and was happy about how they played,” said Harrington.

With the losses, MSU showed they still have a lot more to prove and fought hard against the defending champions. There were a lot of positives to come from these two games and they will now look to focus on next week’s series against Minnesota Duluth.

Header Photo: The Minnesota State Mavericks ultimately lost to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the weekend series. Ohio State won the national championship in the NCAA tournament’s 2022 season. (Lilly Anderson/The Reporter)

Write to Luke Jackson at Luke.Jackson.2@mnsu.edu

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