DULUTH, Minn. — All involved agreed that Minnesota-Duluth’s 4-3 double overtime win over Harvard in the 2003 NCAA Women’s Frozen Four championship was one of the greatest sporting events they had ever witnessed. Nora Tallus, the unlikeliest of heroes given that she led the Bulldogs with eight penalty minutes for the game, provided the finishing touch.
With the faceoff in the Harvard zone, UMD won the draw clean. Tallus was set up in the slot by Erika Holst and fired the puck off the far post into the net in the 25th minute of overtime to ignite a record crowd of 5,167.
“[Holst] gave me a pass, I was in the slot, I had a lot of time, I took a shot and it went in,” Tallus said. “I was like ‘Oh my God.’”
UMD coach Shannon Miller fondly reflected on Tallus’ penalties after the game. After Tallus took her third penalty, Miller said to her, “Nora, you now owe us a goal, you understand that?” After the game-winner, Tallus found Miller and said, “There, I paid you back.”
Harvard outshot Duluth 44-41 for the game. Both coaches agreed it could have gone either way.
“I sit here very sad but also very proud,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone. “They beat us with an absolute perfect shot.”
While Duluth was the winner of the championship, both coaches felt the biggest winners were the people in the stands and the sport of women’s college hockey.
“It couldn’t have been any better for women’s hockey,” Miller said. “When Katey and I shook hands the beginning of the game we said, ‘Let’s just put on a show and raise the bar.’ I think we clearly did that tonight.”
“The crowd was tremendous and so fair in many ways and very supportive of all of our great plays as well as Duluth’s,” Stone said.
The teams played over two periods worth of scoreless hockey before Tallus finally delivered the winner. There were chances end to end.
“Before the second overtime our coaching staff was talking about it and said whoever gets the bounce is going home with the trophy, and we obviously got the bounce,” Miller said.
Senior Patricia Sautter made 41 saves in net for Duluth. Ruddock had 37 in a losing effort.
“Our goaltender played out of her mind,” Stone said. “She did everything we talked about this week.”
Early in the game, UMD dominated. Though the shots were even at five, Harvard struggled to break out the puck all period.
Jenny Potter hit a streaking Caroline Ouellette from the point to give Duluth the 1-0 lead 5:17 into the game. At the 12:30 mark Hanne Sikio took advantage of a Harvard turnover at the point in the Crimson offensive zone and beat Ruddock from far out in the open ice.
Harvard need just 44 seconds to render the first period’s scoring meaningless. Harvard captain Jennifer Botterill threaded the puck through Sautter’s legs 21 seconds into the period to cut the deficit in half. On the next shift, Harvard’s second line pounded the puck into the defensive zone. Sophomore Nicole Corriero emerged from a pile and dished the puck to junior Lauren McAuliffe, who backhanded the puck into an open net to tie the game 2-2.
Harvard took its first lead at the game at 3-2 with 5:14 left in the second period, just after a power play had expired. Corriero threaded the puck past Sautter following crisp cycling from Harvard defensemen Jamie Hagerman and Ashley Banfield.
UMD tied the game 3-3 when Harvard captain Kalen Ingram was pinned behind the Crimson net by Duluth players on each side. UMD senior Joanne Eustace stole the puck and fed Hanne Sikio in front at point blank for the finish.
A critical point with five minutes left in regulation was a 10-minute misconduct given to Harvard captain Angela Ruggiero for a hit she delivered in front of the Harvard net. The Crimson stayed in the game long enough for Ruggiero to make a triumphant return, but her boost was not enough.
A minute into the second overtime, Ruggiero slashed the puck away from Sautter after the whistle had blown following a Botterill shot on net. The play was reviewed but to no avail for the Crimson, and Tallus’ game-winner followed shortly thereafter.
The UMD seniors received the thrill of winning their last of three national championships in front of their home crowd. Harvard received the agony of defeat.
“Obviously there’s quite a bit of disappointment, but really all of the girls are so appreciative of the kind of team we’ve had and the effort we’ve put forward tonight,” Botterill said. “It was a really great hockey game to be a part of. Obviously this evening we’re going to be a little disappointed for a little while. But with time we’ll realize what a special season this has been and that this was a great game.”