An instant classic one night; instant trouble the following morning.
The Rainy River Community College Voyageurs had Bronco Arena rocking Saturday with a spine-tingling 2-1 comeback victory in overtime against the North Dakota State University Bison in ACHA Division II women’s action.
But the adrenaline rush seemingly was replaced by tired legs Sunday at Kerry Park Arena.
The Bison netted two goals in the first minute of the game en route to a 5-1 win to ensure both series between the squads this season went down in the books as a split.
“This definitely puts into perspective what we have to do over the next two months to get ready for York,” Voyageurs’ head coach Jeff Wickstrom said in reference to the ACHA Division II national championships in York, Pa. from March 4-8.
“We weren’t getting to the battles for the puck as early as we needed to,” noted Hailey Clendenning, the overtime heroine from the previous night with her breakaway goal 2:51 into the extra session.
“The bounces just weren’t going our way,” added Clendenning, who is one of four former Muskies on the Voyageurs along with Shelby Tymkin, Shilo Beck, and Katie Sinclair.
“Today, they were coming for us and they came out a lot harder than they did [Saturday] night,” said Tymkin, whose tying goal with 1:50 left in regulation on another breakaway forced the overtime.
“Yesterday, we clicked a lot better . . . today we were all over the place.”
NDSU, which sits in first place in the West Region with a 12-2 record, was in a snarly mood Sunday after letting one slip away the previous night against the third-place Voyageurs (9-3-2).
And they wasted no time signalling it would be a different outcome.
Kacie Johnson wired a shot past RRCC goalie Shay Perry just 18 seconds into the game.
She then teamed with Karla Stone to set up Kaylee Lothspeich, who beat a lunging Perry to the puck and flipped it over her at the 54-second mark for a stunning 2-0 lead.
“I figured we would come out excited and ready, but NDSU came out [ticked] off and ready and wanted a little vengeance,” conceded Wickstrom, whose team was outshot 47-25 on Sunday.
Johnson rifled a shot in from the left side of the net, with Clendenning off for tripping, to make it 3-0 before the first intermission.
With RRCC showing more spark in the second, Beck stickhandled past a couple of defenders and skated in alone before cranking a missile stick-side on NDSU goalie Paige Falk to cut the deficit to two.
But just after a Voyageurs’ power play expired early in the third, Kelly Morris won a face-off to the point to Kourtney Lothspeich, whose shot hit a RRCC stick or body in front and fluttered over the shoulder of Perry for a 4-1 lead.
Another deflection goal iced the victory.
“We got deflated after that fourth goal,” admitted Wickstrom, whose 10-player team hadn’t played a game in a month before Saturday’s contest and showed its fatigue Sunday.
“We still had the Christmas legs,” he noted.
“With three or four weeks off, we weren’t prepared for two games in a row with just one week’s practice.
“We’ll get back to working on the legs this week,”
“As the saying goes, legs feed the wolf.”
Saturday’s game started well for NDSU, who grabbed the lead 4:05 into the game.
But it turned into a pure goalie duel after that, with Perry and Bison counterpart Sydney Swanson coming up with one remarkable save after another on a flurry of breakaways and other close-in opportunities.
With Swanson looking invincible as the minutes ticked down, another goalie who now fills a different role for the Voyageurs made the key play of the night.
Victoria Taylor, who traded in her goalstick for a forward’s stick during the Christmas break, made a brilliant pass to hit Tymkin in full stride just over centre.
Tymkin took care of the rest from there—moving in alone and then freezing Swanson before rocketing one high to the glove side with 90 seconds to go.
“I was more excited Victoria hit me with the pass then when I scored,” chuckled Tymkin.
“I had been stopped twice before on breakaways in the game . . . I had to score that time,” she added.
With all the momentum on the Voyageurs’ side, RRCC then won it on a patented Micah Cabral low-level lob pass to Clendenning at centre.
Nobody could catch the dark-haired dynamo, who zipped in before copying Tymkin and going upstairs to the glove side to bring her teammates tumbling off the bench in joyous celebration.
“I saw Micah and I know she likes her little lob pass, so I got ready for her to do it,” smiled Clendenning.
“Thank God she got it over the defence’s stick.
“I saw from Shelby’s goal that [Swanson] liked to go down low, so I waited for her to do it again and that gives me the pick of the corners,” she added.
RRCC, which trails the second-place Northern Michigan Wildcats (10-3-2) by two points with a game in hand, travels to Minot, N.D. this weekend for an important two-game set with the Minot State University Beavers (1-3), who only have played four ACHA games so far this season.
The Voyageurs’ next home games are Jan. 31-Feb. 1 against the Wildcats.