MINNEAPOLIS — Pick your story line.
A – Minnesota-Duluth’s Tricia Guest scores a hat trick against archrival Minnesota, leading her team to a 6-5 win and a weekend sweep.
B – With a weekend off preceding an important weekend series, UMD (11-1-2, 7-0-1 WCHA) looked more rested, controlled five-on-five play and upended the top-ranked Gophers (13-2-1, 7-2-1 WCHA) on the road.
C – In a game that did not appear to be overly physical, 13 power plays and five power-play goals impacted the meeting between two of the nation’s top three teams.
No matter which you choose, it all added up to exciting hockey with the Bulldogs making a statement by winning a pair of key road games.
With the loss of team captain Maria Rooth to a separated shoulder late in the first period, UMD needed to look elsewhere for offensive production and found it in Guest, who had just 19 goals in 77 career games entering Sunday’s affair.
The biggest goal of her career came last season when she notched the game-winner in the Bulldogs’ NCAA championship win over Brown. Sunday she scored against Minnesota for the first time and was the spark that ignited UMD to its 11th win of the year.
“I think that says something about our team, that we have depth,” Guest said of her contributions. “We have players who can step up and score goals. We know other teams are going to go after our top players and shut them down.”
UMD came out and controlled the game early but it was a power-play goal by Kelly Stephens that go the Gophers on the scoreboard first just three minutes, 52 seconds into the opening period.
The Bulldogs answered with three goals, the first by Hanne Sikio at 6:13, by which time her team was already outshooting its hosts 9-3. Two UMD power plays, which lasted just 25 seconds combined, led to Guest’s first two goals, the latter coming just 18 seconds after Stephens was whistled for checking, which led to Rooth’s injury.
Minnesota continued the run of power-play goals as Ronda Curtin’s shot from the blue line was batted out of midair by UMD’s Jenny Potter and past goalie Patricia Sautter with 54 seconds to play in the opening period. Winny Brodt evened the score with another power-play tally 3:13 into the second period before Kristy Oonincx converted a pass from Curtin two minutes later to give her team a 4-3 lead.
The Bulldogs would score twice before the second period was over. Guest converted a Nora Tallus rebound after the Gophers failed to clear their own zone and turned the puck over at 9:24. UMD scoring leader Erika Holst then recorded her only point of the game when she walked out of the right corner uncontested and snapped a shot past Gopher goalie Brenda Reinen with 2:51 to play in the period.
Brodt’s second goal of the game, which came when she swept home a pass from Curtin before Sautter could move across the goal mouth, evened the scored at 5-5 with under 10 minutes play.
Another defensive lapse for the Gophers occured when they failed to tie up Joanne Eustace on the side of the crease with 4:58 to play. She was able to tip Julianne Vasichek’s shot from the left point into the top of the net.
Minnesota had a couple of chances late, including Natalie Darwitz’s effort with 1:05 left on the clock. She picked up a loose puck in the slot and, just as she appeared to have Sautter beat, was hooked from behind by Guest. The game’s final power-play resulted in the Gophers pulling Reinen for an extra attacker but they only generated one shot on goal and UMD escaped with the series sweep.
With UMD having been idle last week while the Gophers were playing their third weekend of the month against a ranked opponent, the factor of rest seemed to be in the Bulldogs’ favor. The held an advantage of attack zone time during even-strength play of 23:54-13:59 and outshot the Gophers 34-13 during that time.
“We were very tired and a little disjointed for a period of time,” UMD head coach Shannon Miller said. “We weren’t strong against the East teams (Harvard and Brown) and usually, when you play below your potential and then have some time off, you come back you’re hungry and you’re ready.
“When we came off the ice after practice on Tuesday, I said ‘We are going to be so good this weekend. We are so ready,’ and, truthfully, this is the outcome I expected. This is what we came here for.”
Miller also said the wins were important for her team for a number of reasons, including winning after her team lost it’s captain.
“It’s huge,” she said of the win. “It’s huge because we were ranked number three and they were ranked number one, it’s huge because it’s on their home ice and it’s huge because they ran Maria Rooth from behind and injured her. That makes the win very sweet.”
An obviously downcast Minnesota head coach Laura Halldorson was not in a talkative mood after the game and kept her comments simple.
“It was a great game,” she said. “I was disappointed that we didn’t pull it out but our team really battle tough today. I was happy with their effort and we’ll look forward to seeing them again in February.
As for the Rooth incident, Halldorson saw it in a different light than her counterpart.
“I saw her loose her balance,” Halldorson said. “She was loosing her balance and Kelly was there and there was contact, but I think it was not an intentional situation.”
The incident could make for an interesting, Feb. 14-15 at Lakeview Arena in Duluth. In the meantime, however, the Gophers will be on the road this Saturday and Sunday for a pair of games at Minnesota State. The Bulldogs will play host to St. Cloud State Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.