VAIL — Ashlyn Marshall, 12, and Sage Nash, 10, were sitting in the top row near center ice at Dobson Arena in Vail, appreciating the skill on display and even checking the penalties as Boston University and St. Cloud State squared off during Friday afternoon’s opener of a weekend of NCAA Division I women’s hockey in Vail.
“It’s really cool to see their really good passes, and their great slap shots,” said young Marshall.
Both she and her Vail-Eagle Junior Hockey Association U-12 teammate Nash were rooting for St. Cloud State because Nash said her family is from Minnesota and Marshall explained that her hockey coach was also a Minnesotan.
Alas, BU topped the Huskies, 2-0, while Wisconsin downed Northeastern, 3-2, on Day 1 of NCAA hockey at 8,000 feet. Marshall and Nash understandably didn’t stick around for the nightcap.
“We’ve got to get up at 4 (a.m.) for 6 (a.m.) game tomorrow at the Eagle Ice Rink,” Diana Marshall, Ashlyn’s mom, said. “But we’ll be back for tomorrow’s games.”
This would be one of the reasons for transplanting two squads each from Hockey East and the West Coast Hockey Association to Vail — to grow the game.
Wisconsin 3, Northeastern 2
One of the benefits for the participating teams is to improve their conditioning by training and playing at 8,000 feet. No. 2 Wisconsin overcame the altitude and an upset-minded Northeastern team with two goals in the third period for a 3-2 win on Friday night.
“I think the biggest thing was trying to deal with the altitude, the kids getting tired and not used to it, and having a feeling of shortness of breath,” Badgers coach Mark Johnson said. “We found a way to win tonight, and, overall, it was pretty good effort.”
And that certainly pleased the crowd, which made Dobson Arena feel like Madison.
The majority of the crowd was clad in Badger red, while singing “Roll out the Barrel” and “On Wisconsin,” and chanting, “Let’s go, Badgers.”
“It’s good,” Johnson said. “It’s nice to showcase Division I women’s hockey, and the people who saw the first game were certainly entertained, and certainly, the people who were rooting for Wisconsin got entertained.”
Almost too entertained because, after a scoreless first period, Northeastern didn’t waste any time on the power play. Just 20 seconds after the Badgers’ Madison Packer was whistled for high-sticking, the Huskies’ Kelly Wallace lit the lamp.
Wisconsin responded with a booming shot from Kelly Jaminski with 12:56 left in the middle stanza. Five minutes later, Northeastern had the power play again, and Tori Hickel gave the Huskies a 2-1 advantage with a shot from the point.
Wisconsin finally got its legs and a power-play goal of its own from Brittany Ammerman, courtesy of a Sarah Nurse assist. Freshman Jenny Ryan scored her first college goal with 2:24 left for the game-winner.
BU 2, St. Cloud State 0
No. 8-ranked BU’s defense and goalie Kerrin Sperry held off St. Cloud State, 2-0, as the Terriers moved to 10-1-1 on the season.
“Our mantra is team defense,” BU coach Brian Durocher said. “We played well in the first and second period, but gave up two or three breakaways in the third period. Our mental reads were less than great, but, fortunately, Kerrin was great. One goal could have turned that game around.”
“Kerrin was on her top-game form, as per usual,” Terriers junior Sarah Bayersdorfer said.
Ironically, St. Cloud State’s best scoring chance came when the Huskies were short-handed with nine minutes left in the third. Sperry stopped St. Cloud twice in succession, and later stoned the Huskies’ Molli Mott, whose hometown is Colorado Springs, and Abby Ness. Sperry finished with 28 saves.
BU frosh Samantha Sutherland ripped a wrister from the right circle into the left side of the Huskies net with 13:56 left in the first period.
The Terriers added to their lead in the second when Meghan Riggs chased down the puck in the St. Cloud’s end, causing the officials to wave off icing. From the right side, Riggs found Bayersdorfer on the left side of the crease.
“My goal was all Meghan,” Bayersdorfer said. “She beat the icing. She did all the work. I just had to put the puck into the net.”
In fairness to Bayersdorfer, she had a nifty move in the crease, moving the puck from her left to right side to get the shot past Huskies goalie Julie Friend.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and email@example.com.