Having played in seven games between them over the past six days prior to Monday's skate, the weary University of Minnesota Duluth women's hockey team and Team Russia laced up for a rematch of their exhibition contest just under a week ago.
The Bulldogs won the first showdown 8-0 but Team Russia redeemed itself Monday night at AMSOIL Arena, beating UMD 5-2 with a late empty net goal for their fifth tally on the night. Bulldog alum Aleksandra Vafina was instrumental for Russia in the game, scoring a goal and adding two assists against her former teammates.
"We met at some of my former teammates houses and here at the rink, and it was just so nice to see them again and talk to them," said Vafina about her Bulldog teammates. "It feels like home and I am glad I came back here for this short trip with Team Russia. I was so happy when I found out we were going to come back here and play them."
Russia got on the board 1:19 into the game when Vafina fed Ludmila Belyakova from behind the UMD net for the games first score. UMD junior winger Meghan Huertas knotted it at 1-1, taking a rebound and spinning in the slot to beat Russian goaltender Julia Leskina inside the far post at the 8:55 mark.
After the first period ended early due to an injury to UMD junior winger Zoe Hickel, Vafina helped Russia take back over the lead just under five minutes into the second period after she fielded a pass in the slot and waiting patiently on the doorstep to beat Bulldog netminder Karissa Grapp to her right. UMD again found an equalizer, this time in the former of Jenna McParland poking in her own rebound after driving to the net at the 12:26 mark.
UMD struggled to stay out of the penalty box, however, and Russia took the lead for good just over two minutes later on a power-play slapshot from the point from Inna Dubanok from the right point. Russia would score two more goals in the third period, a give-and-go between Olga Sosin and Olga Semenets at 11:39 and an empty net goal that Vafina assisted with just four seconds remaining in the game.
Grapp made 10 saves for the Bulldogs in 30:20 of action, while Sofia Carlstrom made 12 saves in 28:29 of time between the pipes. Russia had the slight edge in shots at 27-21 but it was UMD that served 14 minutes worth of infractions compared to just four minutes worth of penalties called against Team Russia.
"It's a real honor for me to work with the Russian coaches, they honestly don't need much help," said UMD head coach Shannon Miller after the game. "This head coach is really, really good and he is doing a good job and I just help with little things. Whatever he asks for, I help. He knows what he knows from Russia and he wants to know what I know from North America and sew a few details together so it's been fun."
The Bulldogs will head to Boston, Mass. this weekend to face No. 9 Boston University on Friday at 4:00 p.m. CDT and Saturday at 2:00 p.m. CDT.