DULUTH, Minn. — The number 27, formerly worn by Maria Rooth, was raised to the rafters of the DECC in a pregame ceremony last night. Two hours later, the evening’s more lasting image proved to be Riitta Schaublin’s number 35 standing tall in the Minnesota-Duluth net.
Schaublin made 40 saves in anchoring a 4-2 win for the No. 2 Bulldogs (24-3-2, 22-3-2 WCHA) over No. 1 Minnesota in front of a regular-season DECC record crowd of 3,001.
“If you’re going to beat a really good team, you have to have really good goaltending, which we had tonight,” UMD coach Shannon Miller said of her sophomore netminder. “She was extremely focused, from the puck drop until the buzzer.”
Schaublin sheepishly admitted to being happy with her performance. The highlight of her night came when she stoned Krissy Wendell on a second period breakaway. Wendell went to her trusty pull to the backhand, and found the goaltender’s pad blocking all avenues to the goal.
“I don’t want to say that I knew what she was going to do, because next time, she might do something different,” Schaublin said. “But once she started the move, I knew what she was going to do.”
UMD’s special teams combined for three rebound goals to provide sufficient offense, despite mustering only 22 shots. Noemie Marin led the way with three assists. Allison Lehrke, Juliane Jubinville, Caroline Ouellette, and Jessica Koizumi contributed goals, the last into an empty net.
The loss broke a string of 15 straight wins for WCHA regular season champ Minnesota (29-2-2, 24-1-2 WCHA).
The momentum swung with five minutes to go in the second period and the score tied 1-1. While killing a penalty, Andrea Nichols picked up a loose puck and seemed headed toward a scoring opportunity when the last UMD defender fell. But Bobbi Ross was sent off for interference, and Jubinville converted a rebound off the end boards, which put the Bulldogs ahead to stay during the resulting two skater advantage.
“That was a big play right there, when you think you have a great scoring chance, and end up allowing a goal,” said Gopher coach Laura Halldorson. “There were a lot of big plays on both ends.”
Minnesota’s Natalie Darwitz, who gave the Gophers a brief 1-0 lead in the second period with the team’s 19th shorthanded goal of the year, thought they had the run of play but didn’t get the bounces. Miller considered the game to be a reversal of fortune from last year’s 4-2 Gopher win in the WCHA final.
“Last year, we outplayed the Gophers in the WCHA tournament final game,” Miller said. “We outplayed them, outworked them, and lost. Tonight was a different story. We were outshot, and won.”
Lehrke’s goal during the same second-period power play on which Darwitz opened the scoring helped make that possible.
“When Natalie got that shorthanded goal and they answered right away, we had the momentum, and that was a big goal for them to come back,” Halldorson said. “We had a 5-on-3, we didn’t score, they had a 5-on-3, and they did score. There was a lot of special teams.”
“We want to stay in the top three on the power play in the country,” Miller said. “We took care of that tonight. On penalty kill, we want to be in the top three in the country, we certainly took care of that tonight.”
Minnesota was held scoreless in nine power play attempts. Ouellette provided UMD with a key insurance goal while shorthanded when she set up Marin, then finished off her rebound.
That two-goal lead became more significant when Andrea Nichols scored on the rebound of a Bobbi Ross shot off the pipe to draw Minnesota within one. But with the exception of a Lyndsay Wall blast that clanked off the crossbar, nothing else got past Schaublin.
“I was happy that Andrea got that 5-on-5 goal–that was a nice play,” Halldorson said. “We had our chances, we played hard, and we’ll go back at it tomorrow.”
Both Miller and Ouellette pointed to the strides the team has made since first meeting with Minnesota in November.
“I just think that we have gotten so much better than what we were at the beginning of the season as a team,” Miller said. “Not one line, not just Riitta–our whole team has gotten a lot better.”
“They’re a great team–four Olympians on the ice at the same time,” Ouellette said. “We had nothing to lose. We were very ready, very confident, and we just went after them. I’m so proud of everyone right now.”
Ouellette expects another good contest in Sunday’s rematch.
“We know that they’ll come back hard at us,” she said. “They’re a great team. They have character. We want to play the same, and set the tempo.”