ST. CLOUD, Minn. — It was a case of too little, too late.
After trailing by five goals through 40 minutes, St. Cloud State (4-16-0 overall, 9-19-0 WCHA) mounted a third-period comeback that brought the Huskies within 6-4, but Maria Rooth’s empty-net goal with 55 seconds to play ended the threat and gave No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth (18-1-1, 24-2-2) a 7-4 win and a sweep of the teams’ weekend series.
The Bulldogs, who have had seven different players miss games the last two weeks due to commitments with their national teams, bogged down in the final period after leading 6-1. Erika Holst, the team’s third-leading scorer, didn’t play in the third period.
“She was so tired that she was going to get hurt,” UMD head coach Shannon Miller said of Holst, who was one of three Bulldog players in Europe last weekend.
For the Huskies’ part, they came out with two early scoring chances but, until the third period, were not able to sustain any momentum.
“We set goals for every period,” SCSU head coach Jason Lesteberg said. “One of our goals for the third period was no goals against, and all they got was the empty-netter at the end.
“We’ve just got to realize we need to play 60 minutes. We took the second period off. We got lackadaisical and, when you do that, players like (Maria) Rooth, Holst, (Jenny) Potter and (Caroline) Ouellette are going to eat you alive.”
After taking a 2-0 first-period lead on goals by Ouellette and Hanne Sikio, the teams traded goals early in the second. Meghan Stotts’ second of the season gave the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead at 2:45 of the second period but Katie Hauge retaliated for the Huskies barely a minute later.
UMD went on to dominate the final 15 minutes of the period, collecting three more goals, to seemingly put the game away.
Michelle McAteer’s sixth goal of the season came at 5:19 to make it a 4-1 game but St. Cloud State goalie Laura Gieselman managed to keep the score in check with a 23-save effort in the middle stanza.
Holst took a pass from Nora Tallus in the middle of the slot and scored through Gieselman’s pads with 8:53 to play in the period, and Rooth finally made it a five-goal lead when she collected a loose puck behind the Husky net and scored on a wraparound with 1:17 left in the second stanza.
Although UMD let up, St. Cloud State came after the Bulldogs in the final period.
The Huskies’ rally started 4:28 in when Abby Cooper’s shot from the left circle beat UMD goalie Shannon Kasparek over her blocker.
Four minutes later Amanda Mathison’s shot from the top of the left circle, after a Melanie Pudsey faceoff win, found its way through traffic to make it 6-3.
The goal for Mathison, her first of the season, came nearly a year after her last goal, which came in a 3-0 win over the Bulldogs, Feb. 24, 2002.
SCSU got within two goals when Ashley Stewart took a pass form Krista Simonson in the right circle and snapped a shot over Kasparek’s glove, but Rooth ended the threat with her second goal of the game when she scored on an empty net.
The Bulldogs had a 54-30 advantage in shots on goal with Gieselman making 47 stops for the Huskies. Kasparek, playing in place of Patricia Sautter, one of four UMD players taking part in an Under-22 tournament in Germany, won for the second night in a row, making 26 saves in the process.
Up next for the Bulldogs is their showdown, Friday and Saturday, with No. 3 Minnesota at Lakeview Arena in Duluth. The Huskies are slated for a pair of home matinees with Wisconsin, also on Friday and Saturday.