How impressive was the No. 3 University of Minnesota Duluth's weekend sweep of the No. 6 University of Minnesota? Considering that it is just the fifth Bulldog sweep over the Gophers in the program's 12 years, pretty darn impressive.
UMD completed its third series sweep of the season Saturday night, handing Minnesota a 4-2 setback in the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. The Bulldogs - who have won six consecutive games against the Gophers and have pocketed six of their last eight meetings - improves to 7-1-0 overall and 5-1-0 in the gritty Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
"Tonight was a true test of character for us," said UMD head coach Shannon Miller following the game. "We responded with three excellent periods of hockey and proved to ourselves that we are resilient. It was very fast and physical, and both teams emptied their tanks. This was a huge sweep for us."
In similar fashion to Friday night's contest, the Bulldogs got on the board first, with a little help from a Minnesota penalty. Rookie forward Brienna Gillanders took a pass from Jessica Wong at center ice at the same time junior forward Haley Irwin was stepping out of the penalty box to create a 2-on-2. As a result, Irwin netted her ninth goal of the season to put UMD up 1-0 just 4:44 into play, the lone score by either team of during the first period.
UMD would grab a 2-0 lead 7:12 into the second period, as sophomore Pernilla Winberg's cross-crease pass was deflected and trickled in past Noora Raty. Just over three minutes later, Irwin struck again to help pad UMD's lead and stretch it to 3-0 at 10:30. Minnesota would finally solve Bulldog netminder Kim Martin with the help of a power-play, as Sam Downey found the back of the net on a shot from the point. The Gopher goal at 14:30 of the second period put Minnesota two goals behind UMD heading into the second intermission.
Minnesota's Kelly Terry got an early break 20 seconds into the third period, and buried her 1-on-1 attempt on Martin to bring the Gophers within a single goal of the Bulldogs. UMD would yield nothing else to its biggest rivals, however, and a shot from the redline on an open net by Irwin with one second left in the game would give the Bulldogs a 4-2 final score and Irwin the third hat-trick of her UMD career.
Martin, who is now 4-1 on the season, made 27 saves for the Bulldogs, and picked up her 57th career victory. Raty, who is 0-4 against UMD in her last four outings, stopped 28 pucks for Minnesota, which falls to 5-4-0 overall and 2-4-0 in the WCHA.
The Bulldogs - who will lose the services of Irwin and Jocelyne Larocque this week to Team Canada - will travel to Bemidji, Minn. next weekend to face Bemidji State University. Game-time for both Friday and Saturday is set for 7:07 p.m.
BULLDOG NOTES: Haley Irwin's hat-trick gives her three for her Bulldog career, and one in each of her three UMD seasons...Irwin has now scored 10 goals in just eight games and has 16 points total, a 2.00 points per game average...Irwin's hat-trick is only the third-ever UMD hat-trick ever against Minnesota...the other two came during the 2002-03 season (Dec. 1, 2002, Tricia Guest and Nov. 30, 2002 by current UMD assistant coach Maria Rooth)...Brienna Gillanders notched the first point of her Bulldog career on Irwin's first goal with an assist.