MINNEAPOLIS — In a wild and wacky third period that saw seven goals scored, No. 2 seed Minnesota-Duluth outlasted No. 3 seed Harvard, 6-3, to advance to the title game of the inaugural women’s Frozen Four.
The Bulldogs (27-5-4) will play for the national championship on Sunday at 5 p.m. against No. 4 seed St. Lawrence. The Crimson (23-10-0) will take on Ivy League rival Dartmouth in the consolation game at 1 p.m.
After an even first two periods, the game turned at the start of the third, when UMD scored three goals in a span of three minutes to jump out to a 4-1 lead.
“That was a surge when we spread out our offense,” said UMD coach Shannon Miller. “In the first two periods we bunched up and we were playing tight. But in the third we moved the puck and found the open spaces we need to score.”
Winger Maria Rooth found plenty of open spaces all night long. Although Harvard freshman goaltender Jessica Ruddock held Rooth in check for the first 40 minutes, stopping her several times from point-blank range, Rooth ignited the Bulldog attack in the third, recording a hat trick in the final frame.
“We had so many chances early in the game, and I knew it would eventually go our way in the end,” Rooth said after scoring from everywhere on the ice, including a slapper from inside the right circle, an unassisted goal, and the final score of the night from the doorstep.
After Rooth’s second goal put the Bulldogs up 5-1, however, Harvard gave UMD a scare with two goals in a 81 seconds, cutting the Crimson’s four-goal deficit in half. The turnaround started after a frustration hooking penalty against Harvard co-captain Angie Francisco.
“They were flying at the start of the third period,” said Botterill, the nation’s leading goalscorer. “They moved the puck well and outworked us. But you love to play in these kind of games, with so many great players on the ice. That last period is why you love to be a hockey player.”
The Crimson penalty kill held UMD’s explosive offense to zero shots on the power play, then Harvard’s dynamic duo of Jennifer Botterill and Tammy Shewchuk — two of the three finalists for the Kazmaier Award, the winner of which will be announced Saturday evening — ignited the Crimson offense at the other end of the ice.
Botterill scored with 9:05 left in the period, slamming a feathery diagonal pass from Shewchuk past UMD goaltender Tuula Puputti from the left post. Shewchuk pulled Harvard within two goals with 7:44 remaining, capping a flurry in front of Puputti in which every Crimson skater put a shot on net.
“That was a complete team effort,” said Shewchuk, who had two goals in the game. “We forechecked really well and the whole team, my linemates and the defensemen, were buzzing around the slot. This is the hardest-working team I’ve ever played for. Our team has a heart the size of Texas, and we came up a little short against a really good team.”
The only reason this game was not a shootout for the first two periods was the performance of both goaltenders. In particular, Puputti stopped Botterill uncontested several times while Harvard’s Ruddock played the most complete game of her career, using the glove, the pads, and even coming out of the crease to stick the puck to a teammate when necessary.
The only two goals scored before the third period both came on the power play. UMD winger Sanna Peura opened the scoring on a partial breakaway created by defenseman Brittny Ralph, and Harvard got the equalizer when Shewchuk deflected a wrister from defenseman Tara Dunn with 2:02 left in the second period.
In addition to Rooth’s third-period hat trick, Erika Holst and Hanne Sikio also contributed to UMD’s five-goal outburst in the final 20 minutes.