DULUTH, Minn. — Minnesota-Duluth was playing in the NCAA Tournament in front of a hometown crowd of 4,800 fans, and it was a role the Bulldogs relished. They outshot, outhit and outplayed Dartmouth to take a 5-2 decision, and landed a spot in Sunday’s championship game, where they will face Harvard.
Both teams agree that the crowd was a factor.
“I hope we provided exactly what people expected — a fast, physical, intense hockey game. I think both teams played with a lot of emotion and laid it on the line,” said Shannon Miller, coach for UMD. “We’re very proud to win the first one and be playing in the big game on Sunday in front of our 5,000 fans. We’re right where we need to be.
“They really seemed to be thriving in the atmosphere,” said Dartmouth coach Judy Oberting. “It just felt like Duluth’s night. We had our night last Sunday [in a 7-2 win over Harvard], and tonight it was Duluth’s night.”
“I think it’s amazing. Sometimes there weren’t that many people in the building and it’s huge, so you don’t really hear them,” said freshman Caroline Ouellette, who had a goal and two assists on the evening. “But tonight I think it gave us a lot of energy. I hadn’t seen my parents since Christmas, and some people on the team have gone longer. It’s a big boost for us.”
“It’s great playing in front of the home crowd,” said Larissa Luther, who scored Duluth’s first two goals. “Lots of friends and family makes it extra [special].”
The game’s key moment happened just past the midpoint of the game. With the score 3-1 for Duluth midway through the second period and Dartmouth threatening on the power play, Bulldog Caroline Ouellette scored a shorthanded goal that typified the evening for Minnesota-Duluth: taking advantage of opportunities.
UMD’s Maria Rooth knocked a puck loose from a Dartmouth defender, it skipped ahead and landed on the stick of Ouellette, who raced in and tucked it just under the crossbar for the goal.
“It was a great play by Maria Rooth,” credited Ouellette. “She did a lot of hard work, and I ended up with the puck. I was waiting for [the goalie] to come out, and I just decided to shoot. I think it was a good decision.
“Coach always tells me to shoot,” Ouellette said, garnering laughter from the press as well as coach Shannon Miller.
Dartmouth came back to score just after that power play ended to make it 4-2, and Oberting said she never felt her team was out of it. “When it was 4-2, we were knocking on the door. If we had gotten that third goal, who knows what would have happened. The fifth was a backbreaker.”
That fifth goal came as a result of two simultaneous Dartmouth penalties, to Gillian Apps for body checking and to Cheryl Muranko for tripping. Each infraction occurred at different ends of the ice.
That put Duluth on the two man advantage for two minutes, but the Bulldogs would only need thirty seconds to cash in, when a shot from Krista McArthur at the point was tipped in front by Erika Holst.
It was the second instance of 5 on 3 play that UMD had in the game, the first in the waning moments of the second period. It was an example of the physical nature of both teams, which combined for 14 penalties, a new NCAA Tournament record. Each team had six chances on the power play, with Duluth converting twice.
“We’re a physical team and I think we can handle that,” said Oberting. “But when there are a lot of penalties, and you are on the power play or a man down, you are wearing out the same legs. Not having a game last week, maybe [the Bulldogs] were a little fresher.”
The game looked to be lopsided from the very beginning, with Minnesota-Duluth peppering Dartmouth goalie Amy Furguson with shots, and outshooting the Big Green 10-1 in the game’s first six minutes. One of those shots was a goal by Larissa Luther and assisted by Ouellette, and the two ended the game tied for a team-high eight shots on net.
“We wanted to start really hard and we did,” said Ouellette. “We had a lot of opportunities.”
“I couldn’t have done any of it without the line that I’m on,” said the modest Luther, who also went on to score the game’s second goal. “None of it would have been possible. I was in the right place at the right time, but those other players made that possible.”
The game was saved early on by the heroics of Furguson, who made 46 saves in the losing effort.
“I can’t say enough about Amy Furguson, who was incredible,” said Oberting. “After struggling with the flu all week, she made some acrobatic saves. The moments when we were settled, it was because we had so much confidence in her.”
The high-paced game came as no surprise to the Dartmouth goalie. “I wasn’t expecting anything easy. Last time we came out [to Duluth, in January], I faced a lot of shots. So I was expecting it and I was prepared for it.”
Neither team will have much time to savor or wallow in the moment, as Sunday sees Dartmouth (26-8-0) face Minnesota in the consolation game while Minnesota-Duluth (30-3-0) will play Harvard in the title bout.
The Bulldog coach relishes the thought. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Katey Stone, Harvard’s coach, and I’m very excited about playing their program.”
Ouellette concurred. “We’re right where we want to be. I think it’s going to be an amazing game, both teams are really good. We just have to make sure we are prepared to play Harvard.”
The Big Green will be forced to put the loss behind them, which is good as far as far as Oberting is concerned. “That’s the nice thing about this tournament; there are four very good teams,” she said. “It doesn’t take a lot to get excited to play Minnesota.”
The consolation game takes place at 12:30, while the championship game is at 4:00.