DULUTH, Minn. — Sixty-five minutes was not enough to render a decision in the WCHA’s race for first place as No. 1 Minnesota Duluth and No. 4 Wisconsin skated to a 2-2 tie in front of 900 at the DECC.
“We were lucky to get out of here with a tie,” said UMD coach Shannon Miller.
Wisconsin (14-2-1, 11-1-1) outshot UMD (14-2-1, 12-2-1) by a 37-23 margin, including 4-0 in the overtime, but junior Riitta Schaublin was the great equalizer with 35 saves for the Bulldogs.
With the game tied at one at the beginning of the third, UMD’s freshman forward Michaela Lanzl tore a hot shot that Wisconsin netminder Meghan Horras just managed to get her stick on. The rebound was gobbled up by the Badger defense, and turned the other way. At 1:02, junior defender Bobbi-Jo Slusar put the Badgers ahead as she shot to Schaublin’s right through traffic.
The Badgers appeared to be on their way to the win as they dominated play from that point on. However, Wisconsin’s Kristen Witting’s body checking penalty resulted in UMD’s second power play goal and a tie game with just under seven minutes to go. On the score, UMD assistant captain Jessica Koizumi took a pass from defender Krista McArthur, and Horras could not stop the shot that snuck past her outstretched glove into the lower right corner of the net.
Both teams had chances as the clock ticked down. Horras had trouble with a fluttering, bouncing puck with four minutes left. Slusar took a shot from the point with just over two minutes remaining that hit traffic in front and dribbled to the right of a sprawling Schaublin. UMD used its time out after that but to no avail as Wisconsin controlled the puck in the UMD zone to the end of regulation.
“To have the chances at the end is all you can ask for when these two good teams play each other,” said Badger coach Mark Johnson. “Each team was hoping for a bounce at the end and it didn’t happen. We played very competitive hockey tonight but Riitta kept us out.”
The crowd noise and band added excitement as the teams regrouped at center ice for the overtime. Again, Wisconsin took control and did not allow UMD a single shot on goal in the overtime period. It looked as if the Badgers would come away with their second OT win against the Bulldogs as senior Cindy Kenyon found herself alone in front of Schaublin. Needing to find some open net allowed Schaublin just enough time to defend, and UMD breathed a sigh of relief as the buzzer sounded.
Scoring opened at 10:57 of the first as UMD scored its first power play goal of the night. UMD’s leading scorer Noemie Marin took a rebound from Koizumi’s shot and put it right on Horras from the right faceoff circle. What appeared to be an easy save slipped through Horras’ pads for the first score of the game.
“I never saw it,” Horras said. “It was one of the few shots my defense let get through and I just never saw it.”
The lone score of the second came on an unassisted goal by Badger top-scoring sophomore Sara Bauer. Shortly after Wisconsin successfully killed off a penalty, Bauer put the moves on UMD defenders and crossed left to right in front of Schaublin. As the UMD goalie sprawled to cover, Bauer made it look easy and lifted the puck over for the game-tying goal.
The Bulldogs lived up to their reputation as the best penalty kill unit in the country. They spent much of the second killing off four penalties, including stopping a five-on-three for 1:20.
With the WCHA regular season title potentially at stake Saturday night, both teams hope to play the next 60 minutes to a conclusion.