There is arguably no better learning tool than an exhibition game early in the season and the No. 6 University of Minnesota Duluth women's hockey team had plenty of teachable moments Saturday.
The young Bulldogs -- playing without senior forward Haley Irwin and junior defenseman Jessica Wong because of injuries -- suffered a 5-3 setback to the Minnesota White Caps at AMSOIL Arena in UMD's last exhibition skate of the season.
"It makes a huge difference that we didn't have Wong today, a noticeable difference," said head coach Shannon Miller. "In the season, you are in better shape and you can play a night game and turn around and play the next afternoon. We just started though and we don't have the legs or energy we needed to comeback."
The White Caps got on the board midway through the first period on a goal by former Bulldog Jenny Potter at the 9:28 mark. Erin Cody doubled the Caps lead a mere 1:06 later, and UMD left the ice at the first intermission trailing 2-0.
An unassisted goal by Katie Wilson 42 seconds into the second period cut the Bulldog deficit to one, and rookie Jenna McParland's shot from the left circle deflected off a White Cap defenseman at 8:02 to tie the game at 2-2.
UMD fell victim to a goal that never really was at 16:31, a snipe from White Cap Allie Thunstron that hit the crossbar before dropping to the ice outside the right pipe. Video replay clearly showed the puck never entertained the goal line, but unlike in Western Collegiate Hockey Association contests, the referees did not have to use the video replay. Thunstron struck again 31 seconds later, a shot that found the top netting behind Bulldog netminder Lana Steck.
Holding a commanding 4-2 lead over the Bulldogs after the first 40 minutes of play, Erin Cody scored an unassisted tally at 6:03 in third period to give the White Caps a 5-2 advantage. Wilson tallied her second goal of the game at the 16:47 mark to bring the contest to 5-3 but UMD would come no closer.
Senior goaltender Jennifer Harss made 12 saves in 30:02 minutes for the Bulldogs, while senior Steck turned away 15 shots in 29:58. White Cap netminder Megan Van-Beusekon made 31 saves for the White Caps.
There will be no rest for UMD as No. 5 Boston College visits AMSOIL next weekend. The Bulldogs last faced BC in Nov. 27-28 of the 2009-10 season, a series sweep in Chestnut Hill, but UMD knows they are not getting the same team they faced two years ago.
"BC is very good," said Miller when asked about next weekends showdown. "Half their team is the USA U-18 Team and they have a ton of young talent. They will be fast and very good with the puck. We have a lot of work to do, there is no doubt, but I knew that before they got dressed Friday night."
" I have heard a lot of good things about BC and we can't take them lightly and come out hard," said Wilson. "They went to the Frozen Four last year, so they are a good team, and they will be coming for us. Last time we took games from them so they are going to want a couple games out of us. We can't let that happen."
The Bulldogs and Golden Eagles will drop the puck next Saturday and Sunday in AMSOIL at 3:07 p.m.