WINONA, Minn. If the start of this season is anything like the last three, it's pretty obivous that the Cardinals aren't exactly the fastest team out of the gates.
In 2000-2001, SMU was shut out by UW-River Falls 3-0 in its season-opener. A year later, UW-Superior spoiled the Cardinals' season-opener with a 5-2 win. And last year, it was UW-Stevens Point that rained on SMU's first-game parade with a 3-1 win.
Yet, in each of those three years, when the season ended, the Cardinals were participating in post-season play.
And that's a trend the Cardinals are hoping continues.
After all, for the fourth straight year, SMU lost its season-opener last Friday, failing to hold a two-goal first-period lead in losing to Lake Forest 3-2. SMU did manage to salvage a tie in the rematch, getting a third-period goal from Laura Mueller (St. Paul, Minn.) with five minutes remaining in regulation to give SMU a 2-2 tie.
"We played much better (Saturday), than we did the night before, which was good to see," said SMU coach Duncan Ryhorchuk. "(On Friday), we came out real hard and just dominated. We just couldn't sustain that high level of intensity. I don't know if we're not in 'game shape' yet or what, we just seemed to lose a step.
"(On Saturday), I thought we did a much better job of not letting down," Ryhorchuk continued. "We had more than our fair share of good scoring chances over the weekend, we just couldn't capitalize on enough of them."
For the second straight day, SMU dominated play early on on Saturday, out-shooting Lake Forest 13-5 in the first period, but Forester goalie Sally Bevis thwarted every SMU opportunity to keep the game scoreless after the opening 20 minutes.
SMU finally got on the board with three minutes left in the second period as Kate Williams (Minnetonka, Minn.) scored her first of the season. The lead, however, was short-lived as Lake Forest pulled even three minutes into the third period as Jess Healy beat SMU goalie Amanda Gage (Lino Lakes, Minn.). The Foresters then took their only lead of the game midway through the period as Erin McGrath scored an unassisted goal, setting up Mueller's late-game heroics.
Gage finished with 26 saves including 12 in the second period while Bevis had 36 saves for Lake Forest.