ARM's list of other recent slow starts comes with an equally long list of caveats. The game against BC in Nashville had nothing to do with a slow start; it was the result of two breakdowns on the power play, combined with running into a hot goalie who otherwise hasn't been able to stop a beach ball in two months. Against Yale, they struggled in the first period they'd played in a month, against a team that was using a defensive tactic that, according to Joel Johnson, they'd never seen before and that Yale hadn't used before; it took exactly one intermission to get things sorted out. And in St. Cloud, the early struggles were entirely about the size of the rink, and, again, as they got acclimated, they took over.
Lack of effort also wasn't really the problem. They may have started slow, but they also worked their asses off in the first period and didn't give up as many good scoring chances as the tilted ice would lead you to expect. OSU's first period goal wasn't the result of not playing hard; it happened because Wethington got the puck on her backhand and flubbed her clearance attempt. It was clearly an error, as she really should have pushed the puck to the boards, which she had a clear lane to do, but that's not an effort problem. If anything, Wethington was trying too hard. Earlier in the period, she got herself out of position by diving to try to block a pass.
As the game wore on, the effort did flag, and they stopped really challenging OSU. But this is the other way the officiating really affected the game. The Buckeyes were relentless about hitting the Gopher defensemen as they tracked back to get the puck. None of it qualifies as dirty, but a lot of them were at least borderline penalties. None of them were called. And yet, Gophers paraded to the box for pretty much the same plays. I have no problem with Amy Potomak's hook being called late in the first, except that an OSU player did the exact same thing to Wethington a couple of minutes earlier with no call.
By the time A.P. picked up her second penalty, moments after almost having her season ended by a knee-to-knee hit (that one was dirty), they were frustrated and gunshy about engaging. They tried to do everything with finesse plays, and the results were about what you would expect. It's easy to say that they can't let the bad calls (and non-calls) get into their heads, but that's not so easy in practice. And the evidence that we have is that doing anything else would only have resulted in more penalties being called against them. And a team that isn't putting in the effort doesn't look as good on penalty kill after penalty kill as they did.
Despite all of that, I agree that they didn't play well. But it wasn't any sort of epically bad performance. I do think that they'll be better off if the seedings line up such that someone else takes out Ohio State. For several reasons, it's just not a good matchup for us. But everyone's got problems.
And, hey, what do you know. When Ohio State actually gets called for penalties, good things happen.