Jan. 24, 2009

Courtesy Minnesota-Duluth

 


What's in a No. 1 ranking? Apparently not much if you have to face the University of Minnesota Duluth women's hockey team while you're holding it.

The No. 3 Bulldogs fought back from a 3-1 third period deficit to earn a tie with the No. 1 University of Minnesota just one day after stunning the Gophers with a 4-2 victory. Banged up but still brilliant, UMD is now unbeaten on the season when it has faced an opponent ranked No. 1, and is 2-0-2 in the past three weeks against those very ranked teams. Overall, the Bulldogs --- unbeaten in their last seven skates --- improve to 16-6-4 overall and 11-5-4 in the Western Collegeiate Hockey Association.

"This was a remarkable weekend for our team, three out of four points on the road against the No. 1 team in the country," said head coach Shannon Miller one game removed from earning win 250 of her impressive career. "It says a lot about our teams work ethic, character and mental toughness. We are very reslient and we learned that about ourselves this weekend."

The first period got underway much as it did the evening before, as Minnesota found the net first just 5:14 into play. Aided by a Bulldog turnover on UMD's own blueline, Gopher Jen Schoullis streamlined a shot past Johanna Ellison to give Minnesota the 1-0 lead. While the Bulldogs' first shot on Gopher netminder Jenny Lura didn't come until 11:73 in the first period, UMD, which was outshot 10-0 in the opening 10 minutes, stormed back to hold Minnesota to just a single shot in the remaining 10 minutes of play. After 20 minutes, the Gophers had indeed outshot the Bulldogs 11-5, but like Friday, had nothing more to show for it than a 1-0 lead.

UMD blueliner Jocelyne Larocque would tie it up at 1-1 in the second period when she struck from the point for a power-play goal at 8:38, her fourth tally of the season with assists to Haley Irwin and Sara O'Toole. But Minnesota responded with a power-play goal of its own, courtesy of Emily West just moments after Ellison had denied the Gophers twice from the doorstep. West's goal from above the right circle at 16:17 gave Minnesota the 2-1 advantage. The Gophers managed to tack another tally on with :24 seconds remaining in the period when the Bulldogs were exposed on a line change. The result was a 2-on-1 breakaway for Minnesota that ended in a goal by freshman Monique Lamoureux, giving the Gophers a 3-1 advantage heading into the final period of play.

Although the Bulldogs were 1-4 in games they trailed by two goals coming into the afternoon's showdown, that statisitic proved unreliable for the Gophers Saturday. UMD mounted a sustaining comeback on a Laura Fridfinnson goal off a O'Toole rebound 5:36 into the third period. O'Toole, who already had dished out two assists in the contest, recorded a power-play goal of her own at 12:53 when she buried Elin Holmlov's attempt to Lura's right, and just like that, the game was even at 3-3.

Minnesota would get two chances with the man advantage in the last 3:25 of regulation --- including :57 seconds in overtime --- but the Bulldog penalty kill units kept the Gophers at bay. After shutting out Minnesota on the power-play 0-of-5 the previous evening, UMD fended off 1-of-6 Gopher power-plays, keeping them just 1-of-11 on the weekend. The Bulldog power-play, however, continues to gel, netting two goals Saturday night on six attempts for a grand tally of 4-of-12 on the weekend.

With a tight overtime that featured five shots total for both teams (three for Minnesota, two for UMD), the Bulldogs held on to pick off their third point on the weekend against the No. 1 Gophers. Minnesota did earn the extra WCHA point by winning the ensuing shootout, but after Ellison had snagged a career-high and UMD season-high 37 saves against the Gophers, the shootout didn't seem to matter in the bigger picture for the playoff-sniffing Bulldogs.

"We were down 3-1 heading in to the third period with our back-up goalie in net, and to come back and tie it is pretty remarkable," said Miller. "A solid performance by our team for the entire six periods, from the goaltending on out. It was just a very, very positive weekend."

UMD will head back to the DECC this weekend (Jan. 30-31) for its upcoming series against St. Cloud State University on Friday and Saturday night. Game-time for both contests is set for 7:07 p.m.