If there was one thing that didn't seem right about Saturday's contest between the No. 5 University of Minnesota Duluth and the No. 1 University of Wisconsin, it was the final box score.
The Bulldogs outshot the defending champion Badgers 49-31 but some misfortune and a few bad bounces helped Wisconsin end up with the 6-3 win Saturday night at AMSOIL Arena. With the loss, UMD suffers its first series sweep of the season and falls to 3-3-0 overall and 0-2-0 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
"Today we were obviously just trying to play catch up, trying everything we could do to just score," said head coach Shannon Miller after the game. "There is no question we badly outplayed them in the second period, but we just couldn't score. We made some mistakes and they buried it, and they got some bounces. The bounces definitely went their way and that's they way it goes sometimes."
Despite UMD holding a 12-5 shot advantage 15 minutes into the first period, the Badgers struck first on a power-play slap-shot from the point courtesy of Hilary Knight at 17:05. One minute later, Wisconsin doubled their lead on a shot from the slot by Brianna Decker, and Kelly Jaminski put the Badgers up a stunning 3-0 a mere 35 seconds later at 18:39.
Junior forward Pernilla WInberg buried the puck in a scrum in front of the net as a Badger penalty expired 3:30 into the second period to close the goal gap to 3-1. The goal rallied UMD to outshoot Wisconsin 32-14 in the stanza until Carolyne Prevost scored a back door goal at 12:53 for the Badgers to push the lead to 4-1.
The Bulldogs were then the recipients of bad misfortune when a delayed penalty call on the Badgers resulted on UMD goaltender Jennifer Harss vacating the net in favor of an extra skater. A blind Bulldog pass back to the point resulted in the puck traveling down the ice untouched and into the UMD goal, and at 18:16, the Badgers pulled ahead 5-1. Audrey Cournoyer rebounded a Haley Irwin shot with 14 seconds left in the period to close the deficit to three goals, and UMD went into the third period trailing the No. 1 team in the country 5-2.
"I've never seen that happen for or against any team I've ever played for or against," said Irwin about the Bulldogs' fluke own goal. "But we bounced back and we didn't back down."
UMD started the third period with senior goaltender Lana Steck in between the pipes, and the Maroon and Gold responded when Katie Wilson tipped in Shara Jasper's shot from the left circle just 1:50 into the third period. UMD simply could not find the net again, however, and Wisconsin later added an open net goal with 24 seconds remaining to seal the series sweep.
Harss made 13 saves for UMD in 40 minutes of action, while Steck made 12 stops in 20 minutes. The game marks the first nationally ranked team Steck has played during her Bulldog career.
"She's been quiet for three years and played her role and she doesn't want to be quiet anymore and she's ready to play," said Miller. "I said to Lana you have been waiting to play for three years, and waiting to play against a good team. I told the team Lana is going in because she is ready and she is really hungry and you guys better play, and I thought we did. I thought we played really hard."
UMD was 1-of-4 on the power-play while Wisconsin was 1-of-2. Alex Rigsby made 46 saves for the Badgers who improve to 7-1-0 overall and 5-1-0 in the WCHA.
The Bulldogs will continue their current homestand next weekend when they host the University of North Dakota. Game times for both Saturday and Sunday are set for 3:07 p.m.
"I thought both nights they pushed and we pushed harder and there are just some areas of our game that we just need to clean up because when we play good teams they will capitilize on them and they did", said Irwin. "Once we clean up those few areas I think we will be an even better hockey team. As hard as the weekend was they are the No. 1 team in the nation and in our minds, those were two very close games and that gives us something to build off of and learn from."