The No. 9 Northwestern Wildcats (1-0) withstood an inspired Canisius (0-1) effort at Martin Stadium in Evanston, defeating the visiting Golden Griffins 9-7 on a wintery day along the Lake Michigan shore.
The Wildcats got off to a quick start with Selena Lasota controlling the opening draw and quickly advancing toward the Canisius goal. After a Canisius foul, Christina Esposito scored off a free position, and the Wildcats were on the board just 20 seconds into the season.
The game settled down after that, with the two teams turning the ball over an several consecutive possessions. At the 22:08 mark, however, the visitors knotted the game at one after a nice finish from Jourdan Roemer off a feed from Erica Evans. The Golden Griffins then forced a save low from Northwestern goalie Mallory Weisse. On the other end, the visitors got a big save from Rebecca VanLaeken on a point-blank shot from Meghan Duffy and used that momentum to score going the other way, with Jen Reininger scoring on a solo effort.
Weisse came up with another big save a few minutes later, and Corinne Wessels scored from on a free position with 15:13 left in the first half, tying things back up at two. But the Golden Griffins answered right back at 11:47 with Tessa Chad getting open close to the net and firing home after a pass from Reininger.
Catie Ingrilli took it upon her own shoulders to knot things back up at three, running by a couple of defenders and rifling it home at the 9:27 mark. After winning the ensuing draw, Lasota got on the board with some nifty off-ball movement and a beautiful feed from Wessels. At 8:36, Northwestern had retaken the lead, 4-3.
Shortly after taking a timeout, Canisius leveled things once again off Roemer’s second of the day. The teams went into the halftime break tied at four.
The visitors retook a 5-4 lead off an early second-half goal from Evans, but Esposito scored from a tough angle just a few minutes later off an assist from Wessels from behind the net. Then the hosts took a 6-5 lead with a near carbon copy of that goal. Esposito’s hat-trick was complete by the 23:41 mark of the second half.
The Wildcats extended their lead at the 19:42 mark. Wessels picked up a Canisius turnover and sent it over to Lasota, who delivered a beautiful pass over her shoulder to Danita Stroup, who finished with confidence. It was the hosts’ first lead of more than one goal of the game.
The Golden Griffins wouldn’t go quietly. Evans went end-to-end with a blazing run, firing past Weisse to bring it to within one, 7-6. But Esposito continued her strong play with her fourth of the afternoon, restoring the lead to two with 13:51 to go. Wessels continued to distribute well from her position behind the net. Just 43 seconds later, she found Leighton Yeanor in front of the net, and Yeanor fired it home to make it 9-6, Northwestern.
Reininger brought Canisius back to 9-7, but a few minutes later Weisse made a huge save off a free position, and the visitors wouldn’t get any closer. Esposito led the way with four goals on five shots while Wessels was fantastic as a feeder, dishing out four assists and also finding the net once. Lasota, who faced a box-and-one defense all afternoon, contributed a goal and an assist.
Northwestern travels to Notre Dame on Sunday, February 5.