Jennifer Harss already owns one NCAA title ring and sophomore Jamie Kenyon is on the hunt for her first. Together, the two players came up big for the Bulldogs Friday afternoon at AMSOIL Arena.
Kenyon scored two goals while Harss made 34 saves in the University of Minnesota Duluth's 4-3 win over Ohio State University in the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs. The Bulldogs improve to 19-13-1 overall and can close out the best-of-three series tomorrow with a sweep - something the Bulldogs haven't been able to do against the Buckeyes yet this season.
"First playoff game, first playoff win, really good game for our confidence and to keep the momentum alive," said head coach Shannon Miller, who improves to 47-7-4 all-time against the Buckeyes. "Ohio State is a good team and we know that every game and every contest is going to be tough. The second period won the game for us and everyone stepped up, from Jenny Harss on out."
Kenyon put the Bulldogs on the board early with a shorthanded goal that came 5:52 into the first period. Kenyon skated from UMD's defensive blueline and from right to left on the ice, fluttering the puck over OSU goaltender Lisa Steffes's glove for the 1-0 lead.
OSU found the equalizer at 8:37 when Sara Schmitt played the puck up the boards and into UMD's zone to a streaking Laura McIntosh, who beat Harss low to the left to tie the game at 1-1.
The Bulldogs opened the second period with bang, taking advantage of open 4-on-4 ice just 53 seconds into the stanza. Senior forward Haley Irwin and junior forward Audrey Cournoyer's give and go into the Buckeye defensive zone resulted in a shot by Irwin that Cournoyer attempted to rebound. Irwin skated behind Cournoyer and backhanded the puck just wide of the OSU goal, only for the puck to deflect off a Buckeye player and into the goal, handing UMD the 2-1 advantage. The lead was short-lived, however, as Bulldog nemesis Natalie Spooner tipped in a shot past Harss 58 seconds later to erase UMD's one goal lead.
Kenyon - who scored two goals last Saturday against Minnesota State - repeated that feat with just under ten minutes remaining in the second period. Rookie blueliner Brigette Lacquette fed sophomore forward Brienna Gillanders in the crease, but Gillanders one-time shot at the puck, while managing to sneak under Steffes, sat lifeless on the goal line until Kenyon swiped it in from behind the goal. Kenyon's 11th goal of the season pushed UMD ahead 3-2 with one period left.
"I'm just working hard and trying to be at the right place at the right time," said Kenyon. "I try to be in my spot at the right time and hope that if it comes to me, I can put the puck in the net. "
Outshot 24-19 in the game at the start of the third period, the Bulldogs struck again when junior blueliner Jessica Wong slid the puck across the slot to rookie forward Jenna McParland on the door-step, doubling UMD's lead to 4-2 a mere 2:30 into the period.
But the Bulldogs allowed OSU back into the contest, picking up three penalties in the final 11 minutes of play, including a 5-on-3 for 48 seconds with less than four minutes left in the game. Spooner made UMD pay, netting her second goal of the game at 17:23 to draw OSU to within a single goal. The Buckeyes shelled Harss and UMD in the final stanza, outshooting the Bulldogs 13-4 and forcing Harss to literally stand in the way of a Buckeye comeback, rattling off multiple saves in row with less than five minutes remaining in the contest. It was the fourth time this season UMD has been outshot (37-23) and still managed to win a game.
"Well obviously we are really happy about the win, but in the third period, we were on penalty kill a lot so that was really hard," said Harss after the game. "All that was going through my mind was getting up and getting from one side to the other side and staying focused and thinking they can't score. You just have to keep going."
Harss made 34 brilliant saves in the game, while Steffes made just 19 for the now 16-15-4 Buckeyes. UMD went 1-of-5 on the power-play, while OSU went 2-of-6.
"If they don't win tomorrow, they're done, and they are going to try everything to beat us tomorrow," said Harss. "We have to be prepared and ready to play great tomorrow."
The Bulldogs will try and close out the best-of-three series tomorrow afternoon at AMSOIL. Game-time is set for 3:30 p.m.
BULLDOG NOTES: Both blueliner Jessica Wong and forward Audrey Cournoyer are sitting at 99 career points after Friday's game...The only time two UMD players have both reached the 100-point mark was on Feb. 14, 2009, when then sophomore Haley Irwin and senior forward Sara O'Toole each reached the milestone against Ohio State at the DECC...UMDBulldogs.com will again have a live blog for Saturday's game against the Buckeyes.