As Wisconsin entered overtime tied 2-2 against Minnesota-Duluth in the WCHA semifinals, the team remembered all too well being in the same situation last time the teams met, and how the game ended in defeat just 40 seconds later.
“When we got into the overtime, we remembered the last time they won in overtime,” said junior Sharon Cole. “We thought it was our time to win.”
On the power play 2:34 into overtime, Sara Bauer held the puck patiently behind the net and threaded the perfect pass in front through sticks and skates to Cole, who buried the shot inside the far post. Wisconsin (28-7-1), who had never led the entire game, finished ahead of UMD (25-5-2) the only time it counted.
“We were exhausted, but really excited,” Cole said of the team’s mindset entering overtime. “We knew we had been playing well, and we could beat them. We had chances to beat them, and we were putting it in their zone and playing really well.”
Now the Badgers get another chance at being the first team to wrest control of the WCHA title away from the Minnesota-UMD duopoly.
“I’m excited for them because I’ve won championships, I’ve been in those situation, and they’re just getting their feet wet, and it’s fun,” said Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson. “I was excited in the locker room after the overtime win. That’s what you work for, to prepare yourself for these opportunities because they don’t come along very often.”
After the game, UMD coach Shannon Miller repeated much of what she had said after a sluggish overtime victory over North Dakota, how she regretted skating her team every day from Tuesday to Thursday following up the Minnesota-UMD series the previous Saturday and Sunday. She believed her players gave it everything they had, but Wisconsin wanted it more.
“If you’re the team that has the edge and you’ve won last time, the other time you’re a little more hungry,” Miller said. “That’s just common in all sports. Do I feel my team was incredibly hungry? No. Did they work hard? Yes.
UMD could still get another chance at Wisconsin in NCAAs, perhaps as early as the quarterfinals.
“If we were to meet them again, we might be hungrier than they are,” Miller said.
UMD seemed the hungrier team early on though, as the Bulldogs scored the game’s first goal 7:10 in. As the UMD top line battled down lie, the puck bounced out to Bulldog freshman defenseman Rachel Drazan, and she buried it through traffic.
“I guess I just shot it as hard as I could,” Drazan said. “There’s not much you can do in the slot. I’m not a forward so I get a little nervous.”
Wisconsin, who hadn’t had any success coming back from intermission deficits during the regular season, has now done it twice in the postseason. The Badgers needed just 15 seconds of the second period to score as Jackie Friesen put in a rebound courtesy of Grace Hutchins.
UMD regained the lead at 4:07 of the second period when Bulldog defenseman Krista McArthur joined the attack and Nora Tallus scored off the rebound of McArthur’s wide-angle shot. That lead was erased at 13:32 when Heidi Kletzien circled into the slot and caught UMD goalie Riitta Schaublin off-guard with a shot the right post to tie the game.
Schaublin, who had 25 saves, and Wisconsin goalie Meghan Horras, who had 17, stopped everything for almost 30 minutes before Cole finally put the game away.
Wisconsin had scoring from three different lines in the victory.
“I thought our effort was very consistent from the drop off the puck until they scored the overtime,” Johnson said.
Now the Badgers must attempt to maintain that consistency in the final even though it will be their third game in three days.