It was offensively the hottest first period in three years for the Bulldogs. Luckily for the University of Minnesota Duluth women's hockey team, it was enough heat to last the entire game.
No. 9 UMD gained one night's worth of Western Collegiate Hockey Association space from Ohio State University Friday night, triumphing over the Buckeyes 4-2. The win at AMSOIL Arena brings the Bulldogs to 15-11-1 overall and 12-10-1-1 in the WCHA, and put UMD alone in the fourth place spot which it shared with OSU prior to Friday night's contest.
"The first twenty minutes of the game, all the stuff we have been working on in practice came flying out, and I thought look how good we can be," said head coach Shannon Miller, who is now 46-6-4 all-time against the Buckeyes. "We did a very good job on penalty kill in the second period, but our third period was pathetic. Absolutely pathetic."
The Bulldogs ignited offensively in the first period with a season-high four goals, all of which found the net in the first 12 minutes of action. Audrey Cournoyer struck first, stunning the Buckeyes 39 seconds into the skate with a rebound on a Haley Irwin shot.
Rookie forward Jenna McParland seized UMD's second goal on the power-play, deflecting down another Irwin shot at the 5:30 mark. After a flurried passing sequence, junior forward Katie Wilson netted her ninth goal of the season at 7:00 to give the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead, with assists to Kacy Ambroz and Zoe Hickel, and forced an OSU goaltender change.
Irwin topped off the stanza with a tally of her own, a wrist-shot from the top of the circle through traffic to bump UMD's lead to 4-0 and Irwin's own point haul in the opening period to three points strong (one goal, two assists).
The lone goal of the second period belonged to OSU, a finished 3-on-1 initiated by a Natalie Spooner rush and buried by Ally Tarr at 14:24. The goal came after each team was assessed checking from behind penalties and subsequent game misconducts for UMD rookie blueliner Tea Villila (9:53) and OSU's Brittany Carlson (12:58).
The Bulldogs were outplayed in the third period, however, and after outshooting OSU 16-4 in the first twenty minutes, UMD found itself outshot 16-8 in the final stanza of play. Senior goaltender Jennifer Harss was impressive between the pipes, but alone could not withstand the waves of Buckeye offense, which finally resulted in a rebound goal by Kelly Wild with just 42 seconds left in the skate.
UMD escaped with a crucial win laden with heavy postseason ramifications, but Miller wasn't satisfied.
"We take penalties because we are mentally weak, our feet aren't moving or we thought we are better than they were. This team has a lot to learn. Tomorrow night we have to work for 60 minutes instead of 25."
Both teams recorded a goal on the power-play, with UMD going 1-of-3 and OSU 1-of-6. Harss made 25 saves for the Bulldogs for her 14th triumph of the year. Buckeye goaltender Chelsea Knapp made 25 saves in relief of Lisa Steffes, who stopped just four shots before leaving the ice after seven minutes.
UMD will attempt to sweep OSU tomorrow night, a feat the Bulldogs haven't done at home against the Buckeyes since the 2008-09 season. The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:07 p.m.
BULLDOG NOTES: The last time a UMD squad scored four or more goals in the first period was Jan. 30, 2009, when the Bulldogs scored five en route to a 7-2 win at The DECC against St. Cloud State...Haley Irwin and Audrey Cournoyer both had three points in the win, each with one goal and two assists...Cournoyer has now scored two or more points in 13 contests this season, while Irwin has registered the feat on 11 occasions...Irwin is sitting at 194 career points after Friday night's game, Cournoyer is at 94 career points.