Women’s Hockey splits weekend with Notre Dame, ends in overtime heartbreak

NMU’s women’s club hockey team emerges from split weekend looking forward to playoffs.
NEW GOALS — The Wildcats look to secure a spot in the first round of the playoffs.
NEW GOALS — The Wildcats look to secure a spot in the first round of the playoffs.
Caden Sierra

The NMU women’s hockey team took on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish over the past weekend, splitting the pair of games 1-1 with the loss coming in heartbreaking fashion during overtime. The ‘Cats escaped the weekend with three points, putting them in sixth place in the Central Collegiate Women’s Hockey Association (CCWHA) WDII Division with a record of 8-6-2.

In the first game, the Wildcats came out flying, not only outshooting the Fighting Irish but also controlling most of the play in the offensive zone as well. The ‘Cats finally popped in their first goal of the game as senior Paris Wegleitner buried a shot from the left corner, giving the ‘Cats a 1-0 lead. The Wildcats dominated the rest of the period, outshooting the Irish 23-9, as the Notre Dame goaltender kept her team in the game.

Caden Sierra

Shortly into the second period, senior Chloe Valente scored twice in just 18 seconds to give the ‘Cats 3-0. The Wildcats’ unrelenting pressure would be the difference maker in the game until a crazy scramble in front of their net that led to an own goal, making the game score 2-1.

“The players on the ice were back checking, we tried to intercept a pass which led to a tip into our own net,” said junior Breanna Bisek, who scored the own goal. “It was shocking and disappointing, but mistakes happen.”

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A late goal with 5.4 seconds left ended the period with a 3-2 lead for the ‘Cats. 

The Irish continued to try to mount a comeback in the third period but were met by a spectacular performance as Valente put up three goals to close out the game, leading the ‘Cats to take game one of the weekend 6-3. 

In game two, the Irish got off to a quick start, taking the lead 1-0 and leaving the ‘Cats to the chase. Only three minutes later, Valente caught a breakaway to tie the game up 1-1. The first period ended with both teams playing very even.

The second period saw the ‘Cats score four unanswered goals and take a commanding 5-1 lead. The goals were made by Wegleitner, Valente, senior Lindsey Walton and junior Cecelia Cunningham. 

Caden Sierra

As the third period began, the Irish dominated most of the play, scoring four unanswered goals of their own and eventually scoring a last-minute goal to send the game into overtime where the ‘Cats fell to the Irish 6-5.

Wildcats’ junior goaltender Larkyn Ripley attributed the loss of focus for the ‘Cats in between periods to overconfidence.

“The team wasn’t fighting for the win at this point, we as a team ‘didn’t want’ this win, but clearly the Irish did,” Ripley said.

Although the weekend ended with a loss, Valente scored her 28th goal of the season in just 16 games, surpassing her personal regular season goal record of 27 goals in 23 games.

“I couldn’t have gotten any of these points if it wasn’t for my teammates,” she said. “It’s easy to obtain goals when you have people who support you so much, and those people are my teammates and ultimately family.”

Caden Sierra

Valente also pointed out that the team held a meeting following the loss to establish what actions need to be taken on and off the ice to assure that a loss like this would not happen again. For Valente and the ‘Cats, this last portion of the season comes down to three objectives, she said.

First is to have a higher level of perseverance regardless of game outcomes, citing the most recent loss as a learning experience. Secondly, the ability to emphasize teamwork and play a full 60 minutes as a team. Lastly, the team has a burning desire to prove themselves, particularly after rebuilding the program and facing challenges. Their goal is to finish the season stronger than ever, and they expressed their aspiration to make a mark for their university despite being from a smaller school.

The Wildcats will next take on the Loyola University-Chicago Ramblers as they look to secure their spot in the playoffs. The puck drops will be on Friday, Feb. 9 and Saturday, Feb. 10, with both games on the road.

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