FU women top Sabrecats as Ryynanen picks up a pair
HANCOCK — Coming into Saturday’s game against the Marian Sabrecats, the Finlandia Lions women’s hockey team had not won two games in a season since 2009-10. That all changed as Kait Ryynanen found the back of the net twice and captain Sierra Meiners picked up three assists as the Lions earned a 4-1 victory at the Houghton County Arena.
With the win, the Lions improved to 2-6-1 overall, but more importantly to 2-5-1 in conference play, good for a tie for eighth in the NCHA standings.
Head coach Matt Marchel was pleased with the way things came together, especially since the Lions held a 3-2 lead on Friday in the third period before losing 6-3.
“We cleaned up some things, big time, from [Friday],” said Marchel. “We gave up three on the power play [Friday]. We changed one little thing, and the girls adapted very, very quickly.”
Ryynanen, a sophomore, extended the Lions’ lead in the second period when she took a lead pass from Meiners and skated in alone, beating Sabres goaltender Lindsey Strainis with a wrist shot.
Ryynanen’s second sealed the contest as she deposited the puck into the empty net with 11.6 seconds remaining. That goal was set up by a key blocked shot by Meiners
“To have the captain be the one that lays down and blocks the shot, that’s perfect,” said Marchel.
Meiners had two great chances to score over the course of the contest, the first coming just 27 seconds into the contest when she beat Strainis, but not the right post. The second came in the third when she made a quick move to the slot, but her shot rang off the crossbar.
Rather than get frustrated, Meiners found other ways to contribute. Her second assist of the night came on Bella Abear’s tally, which put the game out of reach late in the third. With the Lions up 2-1, Meiners took control of the puck outside the Sabres blue line and skated it into the slot. After beating one defender with a quick move to her forehand, she fed the puck over to sophomore Bella Abear, who buried it underneath Strainis’ glove at 17:02.
It was a play the Lions had been working on all season.
“That is something that Sierra has really brought to her game,” said Marchel. “We have seen some highlight reel goals out of her the last three years. Now she draws people in and she dishes it. That wasn’t the first one we’ve seen this year, but that is the first one that we have scored on.”
The Lions’ opening goal came on a power play in the second period. Freshman Rebecca Lilly found the back of the net from the blue line after taking a pass from Abear and beating Strainis with a wrist shot. It was her first career goal.
Sophomore Annah Smiddy made 26 saves in the victory, but none bigger than a pair during a late second-period power play, when she kept the Lions in the lead, 2-1, heading into the third period.
Marian 0 1 0 – 1
Finlandia 0 2 1 – 4
1, FU, Rebecca Lilly (Bella Abear), PP, 5:02
2, FU, Kait Ryynanen (Sierra Meiners, Sarah Hockings), 8:57
3, MU, Hailey Miller (Morgan Bolin, Ally Fox), 16:28
4, FU, Abear (Meiners), 17:02
5, FU, Ryynanen (Natasha Kern, Meiners), EN, 19:49
Strainis, MU 6 3 6 – 15
Smiddy, FU 12 7 7 – 26
MU: 4/8; FU: 5/10
MU: 0/5; FU: 1/4