Finlandia still looking for their first win at St. Norbert
DEPERE, Wis. — While the college hockey season lasts into February, the reality is that it really is a short season, which is part of why the Finlandia Lions women’s hockey team’s 0-3-0 start feels worse that it actually is.
The Lions dropped a pair of home games against Trine last weekend at the Houghton County Arena. However, coach Matt Marchel liked some of what his girls were able to accomplish, especially during Saturday’s 5-2 loss where the Thunder struck twice late to blow open a much tighter game.
“It’s not the outcome that we wanted,” said Marchel. “It’s not like we played bad hockey. I am very optimistic about the year. We have no one to blame but ourselves.
“The way we moved (the puck) around on the power play, I was OK with it. We had a few chances. When we had possession, we did alright with it in their zone. We defended well, which I knew we would.”
On Friday, the two teams went scoreless for 56:46 before Brandi Wilson found the back of the net by knocking a rebound over Lions’ goaltender Annah Smiddy’s outstretched left leg for a goal.
Prior to the goal, the teams traded possession and scoring chances. The Lions outshot the Thunder 8-5 in the first period and, at times, looked dominant.
The second period was a different story as the Thunder controlled large portions of the play, especially during a stretch in the latter stages where it felt as the Lions might never get the puck back out of their own end. If not for Smiddy’s strong play, the Lions could have found themselves trailing by multiple goals instead of tied.
The third period saw spurts of offense from both teams, but neither gained much ground until late when Wilson’s line found a way to hem the Lions in their own end and picked up the goal.
Smiddy stopped 27 shots in the loss.
Before Saturday’s game, Marchel addressed something with the team that he felt they needed to do after not scoring a goal through their first 120 minutes of play.
“That was one of our things between Friday and Saturday, bringing the puck to the net,” said Marchel. “She did it second shift of the game, just like we practiced.”
Sophomore defenseman Kylee Dyni took her coach’s words to heart just 50 seconds into the contest as she flew down the right boards, drove in front of the net, took a shot, got her own rebound and knocked it home. Dyni then made a similar play in the second period to help set up a tying goal for the Lions when she carried the puck down the right boards before feeding junior Kait Ryynanen in the slot. Ryynanen then got the puck over to freshman center Malone Heibert, who buried the puck for her first career goal.
Dyni showed flashes of her skill last season and has been given the “green light” this season to make plays where she can.
“She can skate…we all know that,” said Marchel. “That’s her just being a smart player. She can gain speed, control that puck and have her head up all at the same time.”
The Thunder broke a 2-2 tie late in the second period and then added two more in 29 seconds late in the third to seal their victory.
Smiddy made 30 saves in the loss.
Things do not get much easier this weekend as the Lions, who are 0-2 in NCHA play, hit the road to face St. Norbert. The Green Knights are off to a slow start themselves at 1-2-0 this season after a split with Aurora last weekend.
Local product Jessica Schlaff, who was second only to Lexi Pyykkonen in scoring last season with seven goals and 17 points, has two goals to lead the team out of the gates this season. The Atlantic Mine native in her final season in Green and Gold.
Sophomore Anais Aurard has been good in goal, posting a 2.36 goals against average and a .931 save percentage through three games.
The Lions and Green Knights will face off Friday at 8 p.m. and at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Resch Olympic Pavilion at the Cornerstone Community Ice Center in DePere.