MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Based on effort alone, No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth deserved to take something more than a moral victory away from its road trip against top-ranked Minnesota. Thanks to Nora Tallus’ goal at 18:10 of the third period, UMD (7-1-2, 7-1-2 WCHA) earned a point via a 2-2 tie with the Gophers (11-0-1, 11-0-1 WCHA).
“Obviously, I’m pleased,” said Duluth coach Shannon Miller. “I see the Gophers as the best team in the country – certainly, the most talented team in the country. I think when you can come into their own rink, and put forward the effort that we did tonight, and tie a team this good, that speaks volumes about our own team.”
Minnesota struggled to overcome the loss of star forward Krissy Wendell to an abdominal injury suffered five minutes into the game.
“When you lose a player of her caliber, it’s a huge loss,” Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson said. “We weren’t the same team without her.”
Minnesota came into the contest having won 20 straight, dating back to a tie at Ohio State last February.
“I thought it was a great college hockey game. Anytime you give up a goal in the last couple minutes of a game it’s disappointing,” Halldorson said.
Though it was a tight-checking affair, the Bulldogs and Gophers were only called for five and four minor penalties respectively.
“I felt that [referee Brad Shepard] let the teams play a little bit more,” Miller said. “There were fewer penalties for each team, therefore, we had some energy to go 5-on-5 and generate some offense. I thought we were strong through the whole game. The thing I’m most proud of is I felt we played really well as a team.”
UMD had a territorial advantage through much of the latter stages of the game, but it appeared that two goals would be enough for a Gopher victory behind the strong play of Jody Horak in net. Horak, who finished with 24 saves on the night, stoned Jessica Koizumi on a third period breakaway to preserve the lead.
However, late in the action, the Gophers struggled to clear the puck and were caught with tired skaters on the ice. Tallus, no stranger to scoring big goals, made them pay.
“I was the high forward in the slot,” Tallus said of the play. “It was a rebound. I got a hip shot, and it went in.”
Without Wendell, linemates Natalie Darwitz and Kelly Stephens were kept out of the scoring column and were on the ice for both goals against. Their best shot at a goal came when Darwitz rang a low shot off the pipe on Riitta Schaublin’s short side during a second period power play. The Minnesota specialty unit, with Ashley Albrecht taking Wendell’s spot, failed to click in five chances.
With its reliable sources of offense absent, Minnesota was pleased to receive contributions from other players. Defender Chelsey Brodt provided the first period lead when she blasted one in from the point for her third goal of the season.
Shortly after Noemie Marin pulled Duluth even early in the second period with her second goal of the weekend off of a goalmouth scramble, Liz Palkie put the Gophers back in front with her first collegiate goal.
“I just wanted to try to get it in front of the net, because I knew my linemates were crashing,” Palkie said. “I was just trying to get it close by the goalie, and it somehow actually went in. I didn’t even know it went in until Jenelle [Philipczyk] started screaming. So I did [too].”
Schaublin made sure that no other pucks found the net by stopping 29 shots, ending a five-game losing streak against the Gophers for herself and her team.
Duluth captain Caroline Ouellette was the catalyst for her team’s offense throughout the contest. Her line provided both UMD goals, and she assisted on one of them.
“I think Caroline Ouellette is the best playmaker in the country,” Miller said. “She’s a champion, that kid. She carries a lot of responsibility for this young team. I think she played at another level tonight. It was all about leadership, and she needed to step up. The team needed to step up.”
Miller thinks the comeback against Minnesota could be the start of even bigger things for the Bulldogs.
“I think that playing as well as we’ve played the last two series that we’ve had, gives them confidence that we’re doing the right things off the ice, we’re doing the right things on the ice, and this team does have the character to go all the way,” she said.