DULUTH, Minn. - The Bulldogs may have finally adopted the now from the now or never motto.
The No. 10 (PairWise) University of Minnesota Duluth women's hockey team clinched fourth place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Friday night at AMSOIL Arena with a 4-1 victory over Minnesota State University, Mankato. The win, coupled with a 7-1 loss by Ohio State to Wisconsin, secures a date with the Buckeyes in Duluth next weekend in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.
"We had a very complete game tonight, 60 minutes of good hockey," said head coach Shannon Miller, who is now 45-4-3 all-time against the Mavericks. "We had a really good week preparing for this weekend. It's basically now or never, so they were either going to show up tonight or they're not showing up this year, and I think they showed tonight it is time to turn the train around and they were prepared to do that. It was a complete game."
UMD (17-13-1, 14-12-1) skated out to an early lead just 45 seconds into the game. Senior forward Haley Irwin fired a shot to the right of MSU goaltender Alli Altmann that glanced off the pipe and onto Audrey Cournoyer's stick. Cournoyer roofed the puck for her 20th goal of the season, putting the Bulldogs up 1-0.
The Mavericks equalized on a give-and-go that resulted in a goal by Kari Lundberg at 10:13, but UMD rookie forward Shara Jasper nudged the Bulldogs into the lead 4:31 later, burying a scrum in front of the net for her third goal of the season.
Cournoyer sniped another rebound for goal No, 21 after a passing sequence between blueliner Jessica Wong and Irwin, who picked up her second assist on the evening on the goal that extended UMD's lead to 3-1 at 16:32 in the first period. Cournoyer's goal and Wong's assist puts each player at 97 career points.
Irwin netted the lone tally of either team at 7:29 of the second stanza, an effort that led to the forward squeeze a shot between the pipe and Altmann's left pad to put the Bulldogs in the drivers seat at 4-1. The goal pushed Irwin to 199 career points (75-124=199) as a Bulldog.
UMD senior goaltender Jennifer Harss was brilliant between the pipes for the Bulldogs, who didn't heavily outshoot MSU 32-25 but benefited from Harss in net and her 24 saves. The Mavericks Altmann made 15 stops in 27:29, and Danielle Butters, who relieved Altmann after the fourth goal, had 13 saves in 32:31 of action. Neither team picked up a power-play goal in the skate, with UMD 0-of-3 and MSU 0-of-4.
"I think especially with the incident at end of the game, it's important to show up tomorrow and be very serious about winning and winning big," said Miller after the game.
The Bulldogs will play their final regular season game tomorrow night against the Mavericks at AMSOIL with a 6:07 p.m. scheduled start. UMD will honor its five seniors in a red carpet ceremony following the game.