DULUTH, Minn. — Opposing fans, be warned. If you chant “Sieve!” at Jody Horak during pregame introductions, you might not get to use the chant again that day.
In each of the past three seasons, Horak has responded to hostile treatment by crowds in Madison, Wisc. by pitching a shutout. On Sunday, she did the same to the Minnesota-Duluth faithful. The senior turned back all 32 shots on goal she faced to earn her eighth shutout this season and the twentieth of her Gopher career.
“I go out, and try to not let anyone score on me,” Horak said. “If it happens, it happens, and you’ve just got to recover. And today, apparently I couldn’t give up one, or we wouldn’t have won. We were able to get that one in the second period.”
That one was an unassisted goal by Krissy Wendell at 2:26 of the second period for Minnesota (30-2-2, 24-1-2 WCHA). She notched her 37th tally of the season by picking up a loose puck at center ice and carrying to the low slot before beating Bulldog goalie Patricia Sautter-Elsmore along the ice.
“You can only go to the backhand so many times, before you’re ‘Alright, try something different,’” Wendell said. “I didn’t even know it went in.”
Wendell put on a display for the 1,854 in attendance, rushing the puck up ice numerous times with her rare combination of speed, strength and skill. She wasn’t sure how much she would have had left if the game had gone to overtime.
“In a game like this, you can’t leave anything in the tank, you’ve got to leave it all out there,” Wendell said.
The Bulldogs (24-4-2, 22-4-2 WCHA) were forced to settle for a series split, though their coach thought they deserved a better fate.
“I felt the Gophers had an awful lot of help in the second period, and I think that’s very unfortunate,” Shannon Miller said. “Because when two really good teams are playing, it should be about the two really good teams.”
Miller was most perturbed by a potential tying goal disallowed in the second period, when the referee ruled that the play was dead.
In a game where only one skater earns a point, there are many unsung heroes.
“Our main focus today was tough D,” Minnesota’s Andrea Nichols said. “We got one goal to win the game, and the rest was tough D.”
The Bulldogs had all three of the third period chances on the power play, including one in the final four minutes, but came up short.
“It’s an emotional series, and I think there are times where we took some penalties we shouldn’t have,” Minnesota coach Laura Halldorson said. “It’s tough–they’re excited. I thought we did a great job killing penalties tonight. Specifically, Bobbi Ross had a shift here at the end, she went down to block that shot late in the game. That was tremendous.”
Ironically, the winner of each game of the series was out shot by their opponent. With only 29 shots, Minnesota had less shots than an adversary for the first time this season.
“I thought yesterday, they got the bounces, we didn’t, and their goalie won the game for them, basically,” Horak said. “Today, we came out even more determined, and we were not going to lose this hockey game. We didn’t want to lose any momentum heading into the playoffs.”
The two rivals have some unfinished business in those playoffs, beginning with next week’s WCHA tournament.
“I think what we proved this weekend, is that these teams competing is just like the United States and Canada competing–the two national teams,” Miller said. “It’s like looking in a mirror. You have different strengths, but very even.”
Which team is better? Wendell declined to say.
“We’re a different team,” she said. “I think we’re a very, very different style team. I’ll leave it at that.”