The Bulldogs are moving on to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's Final Face-Off.
The University of Minnesota Duluth women's hockey team battled back from a two-goal deficit to defeat Bemidji State University 4-3 Saturday at AMSOIL Arena in the second game of the WCHA quarterfinals. The quarterfinal series sweep is the ninth in program history and fourth against the Beavers all-time.
"This win says we belong," said Bulldog head coach Maura Crowell. "It's been a tough year schedule-wise but a lot of high points, and I think what we have learned through the course of the year is what we are seeing now. I love the way this team is playing right now and this is when we want to be rolling and I think we are."
The Beavers put UMD on notice early in the first period, netting two goals in the first 12 minutes. Jacqueline Kaasa got BSU on the board at the 7:09 mark, and then Paige Beebe followed suit, banging home a long rebound at 11:37 to give the Beavers a 2-0 advantage -- their first lead of the series.
The Bulldogs -- who entered Saturday's contest with just two wins in nine games after trailing in the first period -- needed a spark, and it came in the form of junior forward Ryleigh Houston. After Lizi Norton's shot from the point hit traffic in front of the net, Houston's quick reaction backhanded the puck over Lauren Bench to cut UMD's deficit in half at 16:59 of the first frame.
That spark ignited into an all out flame 7:03 into the second period on Anna Klein's game-tying tally. Klein intercepted a Beaver pass off a face-off in the UMD defensive zone and skated from one end to the other, outpacing two BSU players in pursuit. Klein then leaned to her left, put the puck on her backhand and then her forehand before using the pipe for good measure on her 12th goal of the season to knot the game at 2-2.
UMD finally took its first -- and last -- lead of the game in a goal that exemplified the Bulldogs determination on the afternoon at 11:20 of the third period. WCHA Defenseman of the Month Maggie Flaherty forced a BSU turnover on the redline, and Gabbie Hughes did the rest. After Bench made the initial save on Hughes' shot from the high slot, the rookie center reached around a BSU defenseman for the rebound as she was falling to the ice to net her 18th goal of the season. Then, just 2:50 later, Hughes, figured in the Bulldogs eventual game-winning goal. Norton sprung Hughes into the BSU zone, and Hughes slid the puck over to Anneke Linser above the circle. Linser sniped the puck into the far post for her tenth of the year to give UMD a 4-2 lead at 14:10 of the third period.
The Beavers scored one last goal on a power play with an additional empty net skater (6-on-4) 45 seconds after Linser's goal, but UMD goaltender Maddie Rooney and the rest of the Bulldogs stood strong in the final five minutes to secure the program's 18th trip to the WCHA semifinals.
UMD edged BSU in shots 36-35, and had 32 saves from Rooney. The Beavers, who weren't called for a single penalty in the series, finish the season 13-21-2 overall, and had 32 saves from Bench.
The Bulldogs (15-15-4) will head to Minneapolis, Minn. next weekend to face the No. 1 University of Minnesota at Ridder Arena in game one of the WCHA Final Face-Off semifinals. The puck will drop of the sixth meeting between the Bulldogs and Gophers this season at 2:07 p.m.
BULLDOG NOTES: UMD is now 25-8 all-time in WCHA quarterfinal games ... The Bulldogs improve to 11-4 against BSU in the post season, and finish the 2018-19 season 5-1 against the Beavers ... Four players are in the midst of four-game scoring streaks, including Gabbie Hughes (3g, 3a), Maggie Flaherty (2g, 4a), Anneke Linser (3g, 1a) and Anna Klein (2g, 2a).