MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — North Dakota and Minnesota-Duluth made history this afternoon as they became the first teams to play in a postseason conference tournament with an NCAA autobid on the line. Tournament organizers hoped that the autobid’s lure would lead to the most competitive postseason tournaments ever for lower-seeded teams, and North Dakota lived up to expectations.
The No. 7 seed Fighting Sioux (9-23-3) forced overtime against No. 2 seed Minnesota-Duluth (25-4-2), but Bulldog sophomore Noemie Marin spoiled the Cinderella story with a goal 4:32 into overtime to clinch the 3-2 UMD win in a Thursday WCHA quarterfinal. UND goalie Amber Hasbargen made 35 saves in defeat–19 in the third period alone.
“Obviously I’m very proud of our team to play the way they did,” said North Dakota coach Shantel Rivard, whose Sioux put up 21 shots of their own. “They’re the No. 2 team in the country, and we’re a team that’s not even on the map. They played their hearts out.”
On the game-winner, Patty Kazmaier finalist Caroline Ouellette drew attention as she carried the puck, and North Dakota was outmanned down low. Ouellette worked the puck to center for linemate Jessica Koizumi, who passed to Marin on the left side. With her back to the net, Marin finished on her backhand.
“She did a good job with an outside drive–they were all looking at her, I think,” Marin said of Ouellette. “They passed it to Jessica, and Jessica gave it back to me. It was a great pass from her.”
While the Bulldogs were still recovering from playing their hearts out against No. 1 Minnesota last Saturday and Sunday, the Fighting Sioux were ready to play their hearts out this afternoon. UMD coach Shannon Miller said that because of a quick turnaround from Sunday’s game, her team was tired. Halfway through today’s game, she regretted not giving the team Wednesday off from practice.
“I have to give credit to the opponent, but that’s probably the worst hockey game we’ve played this year,” said UMD coach Shannon Miller. “We gave it everything we had last weekend to make sure we played wellBut once we get off our emotional high…it takes three or four days for your team to calm down before they can go back up.”
Cami Wooster, one of two twins on the team, scored the all-important first goal on an all-important bounce at 7:06 of the first period. As Wooster shot the puck in front, Nora Tallus dove to block the shot, but the puck deflected off Tallus and in between the pads of UMD goalie Patricia Elsnore-Sautter.
“Shoot it low and just get the shots to the net,” said Wooster of UND’s offensive game plan against UMD.
UMD tied the game 1-1 at 15:42 of the first period on a power play goal set up by Ouellette. The UMD captain carried the puck to the end line and passed across the slot to Allison Lehrke, who beat Hasbargen high short side.
The 1-1 score held through a second period filled with seven of the game’s 19 penalties, and neither team could develop much rhythm. UND’s Jessica Kovacevich had a solid chance in the final minute of the second period, but her shot hit the pipe. The Fighting Sioux came out strong in the third period as well.
“We talked going into the game about how no matter what happens, we’re going to regroup and refocus,” Rivard said. “Today I thought we really kept composed.”
UMD netted a second power play goal six minutes into the third period when a Krista McArthur slapshot from the point beat Hasbargen high glove side. It appeared that would be the decisive goal for much of the third period, but with just over five minutes to go, Melissa Dianoski won a puck in the corner and tried a high backhander on net. Elsnore got a piece of the shot, but the puck still fluttered into the net for a 2-2 tie.
UMD had several chances to win the game in the final minutes of regulation as Marin kept finding space in front of the net. Hasbargen made the save every time.
“In the third period we started to get better and turn it up a notch,” Miller said. “Their goaltender was huge. That’s what’s goaltending’s about–you got to be there when your team needs you.”
While the game did not end as the Fighting Sioux would have liked, they still have plenty to build on for next season.
“We’re still a very new team and it’s only our third year,” Rivard said.
UMD will play on to the WCHA semifinals. Having peaked last weekend against the No. 1 Gophers, the Bulldogs will hope to rise out of the valley they stumbled through today.
Arlan Marttila contributed to the reporting of this article.