DULUTH, Minn. - On a night that her entire team shone brightly, Haley Irwin's star still outshined everyone else on the ice.
The University of Minnesota Duluth senior forward became the sixth-ever Bulldog to score 200 career points Saturday night at AMSOIL Arena, helping UMD banish Minnesota State University, Mankato 7-1 in the final regular season game. The Bulldogs reaped the benefits of a balanced offensive attack with four players recording a multiple-point game and 12 players in all getting on the scoresheet.
"I was very pleased, all the seniors got to play, our bench got to play a lot, great team win, great team win," said head coach Shannon Miller after Saturday's game. "Great team energy, lot of different people scoring and a very complete game for us tonight. That was a lot of fun."
In an effort that mirrored Friday night, the Bulldogs scored three goals in the opening period of play. Sophomore forward Jamie Kenyon buried two goals in less than 2:42, her first coming just 59 seconds into the game, courtesy of a puck that bounced off the boards behind the net to Kenyon sitting on the left post. The native of Sparta, Wisc. then gave UMD a 2-0 cushion, following up a rebound from a Pernilla Winberg shot that came off to the right of MSU goaltender Alli Altmann.
The highlight of the period - and arguably the game - was Irwin's power-play goal that came at 13:33 of the first period. Irwin tracked down a rebound from a Tea Villila shot and sniped it between Altmann's glove and the pipe for her 200th career point as a Bulldog. With a single shot, Irwin became just one of six UMD players ever to reach the 200 point mark and put a stamp of approval on her prolific Bulldog career.
"It means a lot, obviously, UMD with the history and tradition here," said a smiling Irwin after the game. "There are some pretty big names on that list, and just to be a part of it is pretty big. I think the good thing is that I didn't know I was even close to 200 points until last night, so it was probably good that I didn't know about it. But it was really nice to get a goal on the 200th."
Junior defenseman Jessica Wong netted the long goal of the second period, a coast-to-coast effort and a true glimpse of Wong's offensive prowess. Wong skated from UMD's defensive end to MSU's net, driving to the Maverick net and flipping the puck over the left shoulder of Altmann with just 43 seconds remaining in the stanza. The goal puts Wong at 98 career points, and was assisted by Irwin, her 201st career point.
MSU finally scored 8:14 into the third period, as Lauren Zrust snuck the puck past senior Lana Steck, who played the final 20 minutes for UMD. But the Bulldogs responded just 36 seconds later, as Duluth native Gina Dodge smacked the puck in the top netting for her first goal of the season. Sophomore Brienna Gillanders made it a 7-1 game at the 14:06 mark, sprung on the Maverick blueline by a pass from Mariia Posa on a UMD power-play, one last flex of the Bulldogs offensive muscle in the series.
UMD was 2-of-2 on the power-play, and denied MSU any success with an extra skater five times, despite twice having a 5-on-3 advantage. Senior goaltender Jennifer Harss made 20 saves in the first and second period, while Steck turned away nine Maverick shots. MSU outshot the Bulldogs 30-26 in the game and had a 20-14 shot advantage after the first two periods of play.
"We couldn't have asked for a better game as we head into playoffs," said Miller. "As everybody knows, I wish our season had been different, but we had to turn a corner this weekend. It absolutely had to be success or failure this weekend, and they chose success, and it was a choice. I think we are good to go."
UMD (18-13-1, 15-12-1, and now tied for 8th in the all important PairWise) will host Ohio State University next weekend in the first round of the WCHA playoffs at AMSOIL in the best of three series scheduled for Friday, Saturday and if needed, Sunday. Friday's game is slated for 3:07 p.m. start, while Saturday's contest will begin at 3:30 p.m. Sunday's game, if needed, is set for 3:07 p.m.