When Northwestern and Penn State played two weeks ago, the Wildcats had few answers for Penn State’s offense, allowing a season-high tying 17 goals. Last night, in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, Northwestern had all of the answers for Penn State’s dangerous attack. Freshman goalkeeper Mallory Weisse made 10 saves, including a crucial stop on a two-man advantage for the Nittany Lions, Kaleigh Craig scored a hat-trick, and the Wildcats advanced to the Big Ten Final with a 9-6 win.
It wasn’t necessarily the offensive explosion that Northwestern displayed against Michigan in the quarterfinals on Thursday, but it was enough for the Wildcats to defeat the Nittany Lions.
Danita Stroup scored two goals in the first 7 minutes for Northwestern, and Nancy Dunbar added another shortly after to give the ‘Cats a 3-0 lead just over 10 minutes into the contest. After Penn State’s Katie O’Donnell and Craig traded goals, Northwestern’s lead stood at 4-1. Both offenses were largely quiet for the rest of the half, and the ‘Cats headed to the locker room with a 5-2 lead. After two goals from Shelby Fredericks and Craig’s second of the evening, the Wildcats led 8-3 with just 17:50 to play.
However, Penn State would rally, as all good teams do. Alexis Phillips scored from a free position shot, and Jenna Mosketti finished a nice feed from Steph Lazo to cut the lead to 8-5. That’s when things got interesting.
In a 3 second span, both Ally Mueller and Shannon Nesselbush saw yellow for the Wildcats, giving Penn State a two-man advantage. Without two of their key defensive pieces, Northwestern conceded a free-position chance to Penn State’s Lazo. Weisse, though was up to the task, making the stop, holding the ball, and allowing the ‘Cats to kill off the remaining time on the dual penalties.
Penn State would continue to pressure, but the Wildcats’ possession offense was enough to see off the game’s final minutes
Kaleigh Craig went on a strong individual run with 2 and a half minutes left to finish off her hat trick, and Phillips scored once again from the free position spot to give the game its final scoreline of 9-6.
Weisse’s 10 saves were 1 shy of a career high, while Craig’s hat trick was her 10th 3+ goal game of the season, and gave her 47 goals overall, a team high.
Now, Northwestern will take on Maryland in the Big Ten Championship Sunday afternoon, a game that you can hear on WNUR, with the extended pregame show starting at 11:30 AM CT, before first draw at noon. The Terps were by far the class of the conference in the regular season, and easily defeated Rutgers yesterday evening. The task won’t be easy for Northwestern, but the way they’ve been playing lately, they’ve shown they’re more than up for it.