With just a single game remaining in the No. 4 University of Minnesota Duluth's home rink of the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, the Bulldogs are also just one game away from earning their last series sweep on the hallowed ice.
UMD never trailed the No. 8 University of North Dakota Friday night, earning a decisive 4-1 decision over the Sioux to improve to 12-4-1 overall on the season, and 10-4-1 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
"Huge win for us tonight, you know, making history and closing out the DECC, it is important for us to have two great games as a team," said head coach Shannon Miller, now 33-3-0 all-time against North Dakota. "We understand the historical importance of this weekend, and I thought tonight was a great representation of the way we play -- talented, tough and as winners."
After hitting a pipe in the first 15 seconds of the game, UMD didn't muster another shot on goal six minutes into the opening period of play. It didn't seem to phase the high-scoring Bulldogs, however. UMD netted the lone goal of the first period when senior forward Elin Holmlov dropped the puck back for sophomore defenseman Jessica Wong, who beat North Dakota netminder Stephanie Ney for Wong's ninth tally of the year. The goal came with just 2:30 remaining in the opening stanza, and gave UMD a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
The Bulldogs extended their lead to two goals strong at 8:30 in the second period when Pernilla Winberg followed up Irwin's shot from the right side of Ney and buried the rebound for her sixth tally of the season. North Dakota finally picked up a score of its own 4:08 later, a power-play goal from the slot by Candace Molley, and after two periods of play, the UMD led the Sioux 2-1.
North Dakota would get no closer, however, and the game turned physical from 7:48 on in the final period. The Bulldogs -- whistled for eight of the 13 penalties called in the last 12:12 of the game, edged their lead to 3-1 on a short-handed, in the slot beauty by Holmlov, finishing the feed from Irwin at 8:02. UMD -- which had a player in the penalty box almost consecutively for the last 12 minutes of the skate -- jumped ahead 4-1 with 21 seconds left on the clock as senior blueliner Jocelyne Larocque tied UMD's all-time scoring record for points by a defenseman with a blast for her fifth goal of the season. Larocque's goal gives her 91 points (16g, 75a) in just 110 outings, a point total that currently has her tied with Krista McArthur and her 91 points (24g, 67a) between 2002-06.
Senior goaltender Kim Martin was again brilliant in net, making 23 saves to earn her 62nd career win as a Bulldog. Ney made 25 saves for the Sioux, who were outshot 29-24 by UMD and fall to 8-7-2 overall and 7-6-2 in the WCHA.
Both teams will wrap up their regular season skates tomorrow at 7:07 p.m. in the DECC. It will officially be the last UMD hockey game ever played in the 44 year-old building. Overall, the Bulldogs have been commanding on their home ice, now having won 159 games out of 206, including two NCAA titles.