Down two goals with three minutes remaining in a game to the No. 1 team in the nation? If you're the University of Minnesota Duluth women's hockey team, no problem.
Despite trailing the No. 1 University of Wisconsin by two goals in each of the three periods Saturday night, the No. 6 Bulldogs showed some resolve by scoring three goals in the final 11 minutes of regulation to earn a 4-4 draw with the top-ranked Badgers in AMSOIL Arena. The tie brings UMD's overall record to 12-7-3 and 10-7-3 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
"I'm actually really happy about where we are at, as it is only our fourth game back after being off for over a month," said head coach Shannon Miller after the draw. "We are playing with some injuries and doing really well considering our situation, and if we get healthy and have everyone in the line-up, are we in the top four in the country, yeah, we are."
For only the second time this season, the Bulldogs found themselves in a two-goal deficit after the first period of play. Wisconsin used a solo rink run by Madison Packer, who managed to toe-drag past the Bulldogs' lone defender and then beat goaltender Jennifer Harss glove side to take the 1-0 lead at 5:40. The Badgers tacked on a second goal at the 12:37 mark, a back-handed goal by Brianna Decker , her 22nd tally of the year to help Wisconsin push their lead to two goals after 20 minutes.
UMD pulled to within a single tally at 8:29 of the second stanza on a gritty dual-effort by Kacy Ambroz in a crowded crease. Ambroz's goal - her first of the season - made it a 2-1 game, but the Badgers thwarted UMD's momentum by netting a third goal at the 15:22 mark, courtesy of Carolyne Prevost.
Trailing 3-1 to begin the third period, the Bulldogs snapped their two-game scoreless power-play streak at 9:40, when Haley Irwin, playing at the point, slid a pass over to Jessica Wong that led to an assertive slap-shot from the left circle to beat Wisconsin netminder Alex Rigsby top-shelf. Wisconsin then again smothered any Bulldog attempt to fan the flame, when Hilary Knight punctuated a drop pass in the slot a mere 54 seconds later to push the Badgers lead back to two goals with the scoreboard reading 4-2 with less than ten minutes remaining in regulation.
The Bulldogs found a way to claw back in the contest at 17:29 on another power-play strike from the left center circle, this time on a shot from blueliner Tara Gray. Gray's first coin of the season closed the gap to 4-3, and also handed senior defenseman Jocelyne Larocque her 92nd career point as Bulldog with the assist. On the helper, Larcoque became the all-time scoring defenseman in UMD history with 16 goals and 76 assists for 92 points.
UMD's mighty comeback was not yet complete, however, until rookie forward Jamie Kenyon, planted on the doorstep, banged home a puck from Audrey Cournoyer to even the contests at 4-4 with 1:14 remaining in regulation.
Kenyon's goal sent the two teams into their 19th overtime game, but despite five shots in favor of Wisconsin and four for the Bulldogs, the two squads held on for the 10th draw between them in their storied history. The Badgers did pull out the extra WCHA points in the mandatory shootout by a score of 2-1, but the game still goes into the books and into the all important PairWIse rankings as a tie.
Wisconsin outshot UMD 43-27, but the Bulldogs received stoic play down the stretch by Harss, who made 39 saves on the night. Rigsby made 23 saves for the Badgers, who were held 0-of-5 on their power-play, and are now 23-2-1 overall and 17-2-1 in the league.
UMD will host its second-straight series in AMSOIL Arena next weekend when the Bulldogs welcome Bemidji State into their new rink. Game-time for both nights is set for 7:07 p.m.
BULLDOG NOTES: Tara Gray and Kacy Ambroz both netted their first goals of the game during the contest, while Jamie Kenyon scored her first career game-tying tally...UMD is now 5-4-10 in overtime games against the Badgers, and 26-21-10 in the all-time series between the two teams.