If only the University of Minnesota Duluth women's hockey team had started the game the way it finished it Friday night.
A slow start against the No. 7/8 University of North Dakota put the Bulldogs behind the eight-ball early, allowing UND to get past the Bulldogs 4-1 at AMSOIL Arena. In a Western Collegiate Hockey Association skate with playoff implications, North Dakota led by a single goal late into the third period but scored two open net tallies in the final 45 seconds to keep the Bulldogs away from a rally.
"It's too bad the score doesn't reflect the game, with those two empty-netters at the end, but the team knows it was 2-1 and that's the real deal," said head coach Shannon Miller after the game. "We can build on that tomorrow. There's nothing physical for us to work on, it really is just between the ears."
North Dakota wasted no time getting on the scoreboard when Michelle Karvinen tipped a shot from Monique Lamoureux inside the post and past rookie UMD goaltender Karissa Grapp at 1:41 for the 1-0 lead. UND doubled its lead off a UMD turnover at the top of the circles, resulting in a breakaway from Lamoureux that went high and glove side at 14:48 to put North Dakota up 2-0.
Despite not getting a shot on goal in the second period until the 14:29 mark, the Bulldogs pulled within a single goal with just 1:41 left in the stanza. Sophomore blueliner Brigette Lacquette, after patiently waiting for a UND player to attempt to block her shot, ripped a slapshot from the right point past North Dakota netminder Shelby Amsley-Benzie top-shelf to draw UMD within one score. Both Jessica Wong and Jenna McParland were credited with assists on Lacquette's goal, and the Bulldogs went into the second period intermission trailing 2-1.
UMD pressed hard in the third period, outshooting UND early but just could not come closer. North Dakota's third and fourth goals came with 56 seconds and 16 seconds remaining in the period on an open net.
Grapp, making her first collegiate start in place of injured freshman Kayla Black, was stellar between the pipes for the Bulldogs with 26 saves. Amsley-Benzie had 19 stops for UND, who averaged way under its season average of 14 minutes in the penalty box in the skate. UMD held UND scoreless in four power play attempts while the Bulldogs went 1-of-4 with an extra skater.
"I felt a lot of support tonight," said Grapp of her start. "The coaches and my teammates all stood behind me and that helped me feel a lot more comfortable out there."
With a 4-1 Ohio State University win over Minnesota State University, Mankato, the Bulldogs and Buckeyes are now each sitting in a fourth-place tie with 40 points. UMD needs a win Saturday night or an OSU loss to retain first round WCHA playoff host honors.
The Bulldogs and North Dakota will shut the door on the regular season tomorrow night at 6:07 pm. A special on-ice ceremony honoring UMD's six seniors will take place immediately following the game.