Northwestern thought long and hard about letting Colorado win this one. Nearly 30 minutes without scoring is usually enough to keep a team from winning. But a rapid fire 4-0 goals in the last 5 minutes made the game look more lopsided than it really was.
Northwestern emerged from the first half with a 7-4 lead, but then the Wildcats hit a wall. Northwestern continued to falter under pressure, going just 6-14 on clear attempts. Northwestern dominated in the draw control circle winning 15 of the 19 opportunities. But all those possessions didn't translate into goals, as Northwestern was outshot 23-21 and turned the ball over more (14 to 11). Northwestern was firmly outplayed in the second stanza, or at least 25 minutes of the final stanza, but it still wasn't enough for the Buffaloes to come out with a win.
Northwestern gave up the first goal of the game after about 4 minutes of action, but Colorado would leave for less than 2 minutes, as Corinne Wessels tied it and Christina Esposito gave Northwestern a lead they wouldn't give back. Northwestern's 7-4 lead at the break felt like it set the stage for a cruise to victory, but it was Colorado who scored the first two goals of the 2nd half, cutting it to one with under 9 minutes left. It wasn't to be for the Buffaloes, though, as Colorado gave Selena Lasota a free position shot, and the super sophomore ripped one into the lower left hand corner with 5 minutes left and the game was just about over. The Wildcats would tack on 3 more, 2 of them from Lasota, to earn an 11-6 victory.
Once again, freshman Mallory Weisse was sparkling in the net. She finished with a .625 save percentage, including a huge kick save when the Northwestern was up 7-6. There are going to be growing pains with a freshman goalie, but Weisse has acquitted herself awfully well in her first 8 games on campus. She's given up some softies and some shots from tight angles, but the goalie position has not taken a step back from where it was last year, and by the time Weisse is an upperclassman, Northwestern is going to have a true top level player between the pipes.
Northwestern rode a "scoring by committee" approach to a solid offensive afternoon. 8 players scored in the game for the Wildcats. Northwestern still might be built around an isolation offense, but at least against Colorado, a bunch of players were dangerous with the ball in their stick.
The transfer Danita Stroup looked dangerous, Shelby Fredericks continues to show off how she's rounded out her game, Christina Esposito continues her best campaign in purple, Kaleigh Craig was too big and too quick for her matchup, and even Nancy Dunbar opened her account for the year off a free-position shot. Worries over Northwestern becoming "Selena Lasota and friends" on offense seem to have been greatly exaggerated. Northwestern went most of the game without their star scoring, but once she did, she put the game away
It took Lasota 55 minutes to get on the scoresheet, but she finished with a hat trick. When Colorado could sit back and defend, they were able to contain Lasota, but once they had to come out and force turnovers late in the game, Lasota picked up 3 quick goals. Lasota is still struggling to consistently find shots and goals as she now has 15 in 8 games, which is a full goal per game less than she was getting last season. The constant faceguarding is certainly not making it easy on her, but last year, Lasota would still find a way to get touches. Her efficiency numbers have gone down in a big way as well. She turned half of her shots into goals last year, but coming into today, she was connecting on just 26% of her shot attempts this year. Against Colorado, Northwestern doesn't need Lasota to be World Beater Selena Lasota for 60 minutes, but against top teams, they're going to need her to be a threat for the whole game, not just in the last 5 minutes.
When she turns it on, Northwestern goes from a good team to a great team. To beat Maryland or Notre Dame or Penn State, they're going to need a lot more of the Lasota we saw late in this one.