DULUTH, Minn. -- Minnesota-Duluth -- in a must-win situation Friday against top-ranked Wisconsin – did just that, defeating the defending Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Face-Off champions 3-1 at AMSOIL Arena. 

The win improves UMD’s overall record to 21-13-1. UMD will play second-seed Minnesota on Saturday night in the WCHA Final Face-Off.  A win would give UMD an automatic bid into the 2012 NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs own an NCAA-best streak of seven consecutive berths.

“Obviously it’s the biggest win of the year for us, and our team has come together really nicely in the last few weeks,” said head coach Shannon Miller, who is now 27-26-10 against Wisconsin. “We are clearly playing our best hockey and this team has a great deal of potential. We have good kids on the team that are listening and working hard and you are seeing their potential. No question it’s late in the season, but it’s good timing. Awesome game.”

The Bulldogs stormed the scoreboard first on junior left winger Audrey Cournoyer’s 22nd goal of the season. Cournoyer picked up the puck off a Wisconsin turnover and fired a shot on goal, chased down her own rebound and backhanded the puck into an open net. Cournoyer’s goal gave UMD the lead, but it couldn’t keep the Bulldogs out of the penalty box. UMD was called on four infractions, surrendering three power plays to the Badgers and setting up UW with an extra skater for the first 1:18 of the second period.

A power-play marker by the Badgers knotted the score at 1-1 at 5:45 in the second, but the Bulldogs would break the tie a little more than 10 minutes later. Freshman right winger Jenna McParland carried the puck down the wall and faked a shot, forcing a Badger defender to step up before McParland beat her with speed, cutting across the crease and tucking it past Badger goaltender Alex Rigsby. McParland’s 21st goal of the season pushed UMD back into the lead, 2-1, where the score would stay until late in the third period.

UMD -- which outshot Wisconsin 25-17 after 40 minutes of play -- put the Badgers on the power play three more times in the final period, including with only 58 seconds remaining in the game. With Bulldogs' leading scorer, Haley Irwin, in the penalty box watching helplessly, UMD managed to not only kill off UW’s ninth power play, the Bulldogs made the Badgers pay for leaving their net unattended. Rookie blueliner Brigette Lacquette flipped the puck into the air from near the red line and into the open net and UMD’s celebration -- and season -- was on.

“I just tried to clear it out of the zone,” Lacquette said of her goal that iced the game. “It was a really exciting game and we just stuck to the game plan, I didn’t really think twice about anything and listened to coach and did what she said."

Bulldog netminder Jennifer Harss continued her throttle on opposing offenses, making 32 saves. Rigsby made 35 stops for Wisconsin, which went 1-for-9 with an extra skater on the day. UMD outshot UW 38-33 in the game, but went 0-for-6 on the power play.