Junior forward Zoe Hickel has two goals and assist for Bulldogs

Junior forward Zoe Hickel had two goals and an assist for the Bulldogs

There wasn't much the Bulldogs didn't keep in their control Sunday night at AMSOIL Arena against Ohio State University.

The University of Minnesota Duluth women's hockey team displayed some playoff muscle, topping the Buckeyes 5-1 to advance to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's Final Face-Off semifinals next weekend in Bemidji, Minn. The impressive win improves UMD's overall record on the year to 15-14-6.

"There was no fear tonight, there was confidence and there was calm," said head coach Shannon Miller, who is now 58-12-2 against Ohio State in her last 15 seasons at the helm of UMD. "I feel like we should have won last night, and I feel like they knew we should have won last night and that was their attitude tonight."

Like the previous two games over the weekend, UMD got on the scoreboard first Sunday. A Buckeye turnover just outside the OSU blueline was pushed forward by a hard charging Meghan Huertas, who then set up a streaking Zoe Hickel all alone in the slot. Hickel sniped the puck high-glove side and bar down on Buckeye goaltender Lisa Steffes to grant the Bulldogs the lead at 9:24.

OSU equalized with 3:39 remaining in the same period after Kayla Sullivan broke loose into the Bulldogs defensive zone and scored a goal almost identical to Hickel's over Kayla Black's glove to bring the game to a 1-1 tie.

UMD retook the lead 7:06 into the second period on rookie defenseman Sidney Morin's fifth goal of the season. Morin took a pass from Katerina Mrzov at the point, skated forward and ripped a wrister that squeezed through traffic and found an opening in the net to Steffes lower left. The power-play goal would stand as the lone score of the second period and set in motion a furious finale to the final league quarterfinal game on the weekend.

Hickel all but sealed UMD's destiny 9:35 into the final stanza by netting her second goal of the game and the Bulldogs second power-play tally of the night. Rookie center Ashleigh Brykaliuk skated into the OSU zone, and withstood Buckeye contact at the top of the circle long enough for Hickel to skate across the slot left to right. Brykaliuk slid the pass to Hickel who slotted the puck into the OSU goal to push UMD's advantage to 3-1.

The celebration was then on for the Bulldogs after OSU went with the empty-net for the two minutes remaining in the game. A UMD clearance, chase and ensuing chaos resulted in Jenna McParland finally corralling the puck as she fell for her 11th goal of the season with 1:07 remaining. Then after a Buckeye timeout, senior captain Jamie Kenyon iced the victory cake, skating in from the redline on a 1-v-1 to net the easiest of her team-high 17 goals on the season.

"We had to take what we could control, and tonight we played our game and got the bounces," said Hickel after her three-point skate. "We pushed through and got the win."

The Bulldogs, barely outshot 25-24 and forced to kill off six penalties, had outstanding play between the pipes by Black, who made 24 saves. Steffes wrapped up her Buckeye career with 19 saves for OSU, who finishes the season 15-17-5 overall.

UMD will head to Bemidji, Minn. to take on the No. 1 University of Minnesota in the WCHA Final Face-Off semifinal Friday. Game-time at the Sanford Center is slated for 7:07 p.m.

Miller summed up the rematch looming on the horizon with the top-ranked Gophers matter-of factly. "What we take away from this weekend is confidence that we have arrived, and we are clearly peaking at the right time."

BULLDOG NOTES: UMD improves to 17-4 all-time in the WCHA quarterfinals and has advanced nine times out of a possible 10 out of the quarterfinal round...Overall, the Bulldogs are now 31-12 in WCHA playoff action...UMD's five goals Sunday was the sixth game this season the Bulldogs have netted five or more goals in a game...Four players had two or more points Sunday, led by Zoe Hickel's two goal, one assist outing...Jamie Kenyon had a goal and an assist, while both Meghan Huertas and Tea Vililla each had two assists...In all, nine players ended up with points...Hickel had a total of four points in the three game series (three goals, one assist), while Kenyon compiled a goal in each game and Ashleigh Brykaliuk picked up three assists.