WINONA, Minn. When the Saint Mary's University women's hockey team entered the third period of Saturday's Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game against St. Olaf trailing 2-1, Cardinals head coach Duncan Ryhorchuk had reason for concern.
When Melissa Mondo (Vadnais Heights, Minn.) scored one minute into the period to tie the game 2-2, Ryhorchuk should have breathed a sigh of relief after all, that goal all but solidified an SMU win.
How could Ryhorchuk be so certain that Mondo's game-tying goal would result in an SMU win? Simple the Cardinals have not lost this season when scoring two or more goals.
And SMU kept that streak alive at the SMU Ice Arena as Mondo's tally started a three-goal Cardinal onslaught as Saint Mary's rallied from that 2-1 deficit to beat the Oles 4-2 and earn a split in the teams' two-game conference series.
"That's a big win for us," said Ryhorchuk, whose team improved to 6-7-1 in the MIAC and, more importantly, stayed at least one point ahead of St. Benedict in the race for the fifth and final MIAC playoff spot. "We knew coming into this game that it was important for us to get some points we could not afford to get swept."
SMU came out with a real sense of urgency in the opening period, dominating the Oles on both ends of the ice. And, when the horn sounded to end the period, the Cardinals not only held a commanding 16-2 edge in shots on goal, but they also boasted a 1-0 lead thanks to Rachel Harrison's (Madison, Wis.) got with 1:03 left in the period.
As good as SMU was in the first period, however, the Oles were just as good in the second period, as they turned the tables on the Cardinals, outshooting them 16-2, and outscoring them 2-0 to take that one-goal lead into the third period.
"We talked in the locker room (after the second period) about how we didn't play with any energy in that second period," said Ryhorchuk, whose team also scored the first goal in Friday's opener again off the stick of Harrison but then allowed St. Olaf to score three straight in falling 3-1. "We got that goal in the first period and dominated play and just figured that the whole game was going to go that way.
"We did the same thing Friday night and it cost us."
On Saturday, however, the Cardinals were able to right their sinking ship in time.
Mondo pulled SMU even one minute into the third period and Madeline Loftus (Parsippany, N.J.) and Jenna Roland (Boyne City, Mich.) added goals 3 and 4 before the third period was nine minutes old.
"It was good to see our offense get back on track a bit in that third period," said Ryhorchuk, whose team scored on three of its first four shots in the third period en route to equaling its highest offensive output of the season. "I think we picked our game up a notch this weekend and hopefully that can continue as we go down to the wire."