MADISON, Wisc. — No. 4 Wisconsin appeared headed for a shutout sweep of No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth, but UMD captain Caroline Ouellette had other ideas.
The Badgers (16-4-1, 10-4-1 WCHA) lost a 2-0 lead to No. 3 Minnesota Duluth (15-2-2-, 13-2-2 WCHA) in the final minutes of the third period to end the weekend in a series split. Wisconsin opened the door at 15:49 of the third period by allowing Ali Lehrke’s power play goal, on which Ouellete earned an assist. Ouellette evened the score with 26 seconds left and netted the game winner 50 seconds into the overtime period.
“Yesterday we kind of gave up, and today we didn’t,” Ouellette said. “It was one goal at a time and we scored three in like five minutes so it was a huge message for us that we have the character to come back when they have the advantage at the end of the game.”
The UMD comeback meant that goals by junior Nikki Burish in the second period and Jackie Friesen early in the third period went for naught.
“We were four and a half minutes from a sweep of a top team in the country and we didn’t finish it out,” said Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson. “You have to finish out the game and you have to play until the final horn goes off, and in this situation you have to give Duluth some credit because they didn’t quit. They got excited and they were able to capitalize on a couple of bounces to win the game for them in overtime.”
With the late Duluth push, both teams were as evenly matched as the final score indicated. UMD outshot the Badgers 28-24.
“We were expecting a tough game like this, both teams stepping up and fighting hard so it was a really good game,” said Duluth goalie Riitta Schaublin.
Duluth coach Shannon Miller was pleased with the way her team stepped up and made things happen in a tough situation.
“What I personally take away is that I know I have what it takes to win a championship now,” Miller said. “I think that we’ve got the character in the room to get the job done. That’s what I take away from today’s win.”
Wisconsin considered the defeat to be a learning experience for future challenges against top competition further down the road.
“It’s more of a learning experience, I think, for our team that we can’t let up at all and we can’t go into defensive mode, hanging back and letting them come into our zone,” said Wisconsin assistant captain Jackie Freisen. “We’re just going to have to learn from this and continue forward and hopefully we’ll see them again in the playoffs.”