DULUTH, Minn. - The University of Minnesota Duluth women's hockey team has played its best hockey this season backed into a corner, and it looks like the Bulldogs will be operating from just that corner Saturday afternoon.
UMD suffered only its second Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff quarterfinal defeat Friday, a 4-2 loss to Ohio State University at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth, Minn. The Bulldogs will need a win Saturday in the best-of-three series to draw even and force a winner-take-all skate Sunday.
"Today was frustrating because I think half our team was really committed to winning this game and understanding our goalie situation and really was willing to do whatever it takes, and I think the other half have decided maybe we can't win," said head coach Shannon Miller after the game. "That's how I felt some of them played, some of our key players, our big-time players. They didn't show up today."
The Bulldogs took an early lead on reigning WCHA Offensive Player of the Week Bridgette Lacquette's goal 3:38 into the game. Zoe Hickel slid the puck over to a hard charging Lacquette on the back post for her eighth goal of the year. UMD struggled to stay out of the penalty box though, and OSU found the equalizer at the 12:29 mark on a power play goal by Ally Tarr. The Buckeyes took a 2-1 lead off a power play blast from the left point by Paige Semenza with just 1:40 left in the opening stanza, and OSU efficiently made UMD pay for three penalties with two power play tallies in the first 20 minutes.
At 8:58 of the second period, the Bulldogs knotted the game at 2-2 on a diving smack from senior winger Vanessa Thibault outside just outside the crease. Brienna Gillanders was credited with the primary assist, and with a goal already, Lacquette picked up the secondary helper after circling the wall and creating the opportunity by feeding it out front for Gillander's first attempt. Penalties continued to haunt UMD in the second period, however, and OSU again took over the lead with 2:41 remaining on a rebound goal from Annie Svedin to go up 3-2.
Outshot in the last eight full periods of hockey they've played, the Bulldogs put 10 shots on net in the third period while holding the Buckeyes to just four, helped by a power play at the 14:25 mark and again with 1:24 left in the game, but UMD could not get it past OSU goaltender Chesea Knapp. The Buckeyes netted an empty net goal with 1:45 left in the game, courtesy of Hokey Langan to force the Bulldogs into the proverbial corner for Saturday's rematch.
"We've played our best when our backs have been against the wall," said Miller. "We've been in this situation before. We just need some of our players to show up and stay out of the penalty box."
Freshman Karissa Grapp, making her second start in three games for injured rookie starter Kayla Black, made 19 saves in the contest. Knapp turned away 21 Bulldog shots and both squads put 23 pucks on net. UMD was 0-of-3 on the power play while the Buckeyes play with an extra skater was the difference in the skate, with OSU going 3-of-4.
The Bulldogs and Buckeyes will do it again Saturday afternoon at AMSOIL, set for a 2:07pm start. The Bulldogs need a win to keep the series alive and to force a game three on Sunday.
BULLDOG NOTES: The three power play goals UMD surrendered Friday ties a team record for most power play goals against set back on Nov. 24, 2007 against Minnesota...Kayla Black is listed as day-to-day with her injury...With a goal and an an assist on the afternoon, Brigette Lacquette has now had a hand in the Bulldogs last six goals, including every goal scored in the past three games...As a program, UMD has never failed to get out of quarterfinal play and has gone 15-2 in those games...The loss Friday snaps an 11-game winning streak in WCHA playoff quarterfinal contests for the Bulldogs...UMD is 2-3 against OSU this season and has gone 0-3 in Duluth against the Buckeyes so far this year.