DULUTH, Minn. - The No. 6 University of Minnesota Duluth women's hockey team has won ten games in a row for the first time since the final 10 contests of the 2007-08 season, and the Bulldogs are showing no signs of letting up.
Ever the playoff program, the Bulldogs swept Minnesota State University in the quarterfinals of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs with a 5-0 clean-sheet at AMSOIL Arena Saturday night, UMD's fourth shutout in a row, and sixth in its last eight games. With the win, the Bulldogs improve to 22-7-3 overall, retain their 11-game unbeaten streak, and now are 17-2 in first round conference playoff action.
"All three lines are playing well right now, and all three lines have chemistry and are enjoying playing together," said head coach Shannon Miller, who is now 44-4-3 all-time against the Mavericks and 313-85-34 at the helm of UMD. "Now we focus on Minnesota, and that game will be a benchmark for us."
Similar to Friday night's contests, UMD struck first in the opening period. Haley Irwin's initial shot from point deflected off MSU goaltender Alli Altmann to a waiting Audrey Cournoyer, who banged home the rebound on the doorstep to the left of Altmann. The power-play goal - which came at 14:08 - was Cournoyer's 14 goal of the season and fourth in the last three games.
The Bulldogs flexed some offensive muscle in the second period, with a second goal of the night scored by an inadvertent redirect off Katie Wilson's right skate at 6:24. Sophomore defenseman Jessica Wong put UMD up 3-0 26 seconds later, burying the earlier passing prowess between Irwin and Elin Holmlov for her 14th tally of the year. Senior defenseman Jocelyne Larocque netted her second goal of the series at 16:44, a five-hole shot past Altmann, and the Bulldogs settled into the final intermission with a 4-0 lead over the Mavericks.
UMD's Vanessa Thibault iced the Bulldog cake at 9:18 of the final period, pounding home a rebound from a Noora Jaakkola to stretch the lead to 5-0, the fifth time in the last six game UMD has scored five or more goals in a game.
Jennifer Harss picked up the win for the Bulldogs, making 25 saves and helping hold MSU scoreless on three power-play attempts. Altmann made 38 saves for the Mavericks, who were outshot 43-25 and end the season 8-25-3 overall.
Next up for the Bulldogs is a date with the Gophers, who will host UMD next Friday night at Ridder Arena in the WCHA Final-Faceoff semifinals. The game, set for 7:07 p.m., will be a rematch of last season's WCHA Final-Faceoff title game, a 3-2 win in favor of the Bulldogs.
"We are where we need to be right now," said Miller. "However the season finishes up is how it finishes up, but we have done our part, and we are exactly where we want to be."