DULUTH, Minn. — “I knew it was going to be a tight game, I knew it was going to be a good game,” said Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson after last night’s 2-2 tie. He could have said the same thing tonight as Wisconsin played smart, stingy hockey in a 2-1 win over No. 1 Minnesota Duluth. Wisconsin comes out of Duluth with three points for the weekend and the lead in the WCHA.
UMD (14-3-1, 12-3-1 WCHA) came out strong in the first and had seven shots on goal before Wisconsin (15-2-1, 12-1-1) had a chance. However, when the Badgers finally had a chance, they used it well. While killing off a penalty Wisconsin defender Alycia Matthews cleared the puck down the right side board. The UMD defenders misplayed the puck giving Wisconsin’s Sharon Cole a chance to put it on net. UMD netminder Riitta Schaublin simply couldn’t locate the puck as it sat two inches from the line. Badger junior Sara Bauer was the first player to see it, and she simply pushed it over to give the Badgers the 1-0 lead on the short handed goal.
“We were totally dominating the game to that point and all of a sudden the puck’s in our net,” said UMD coach Shannon Miller. “You see that happen and think to yourself, ‘Oh great, this is how it’s going to go’ but you have to respond to that and we did. We kept working. We kept playing. I thought we played great hockey tonight.”
The Badgers made it 2-0 on a power play goal by Tia Hanson at 1:21 of the second. The Medicine Hat, Alberta freshman tracked down the rebound from a shot by Erika Lawler and found space on Schaublin’s stick side. Hanson’s eventual game winner was assisted by her linemates Lawler and Angie Kesely.
“That third line has energy and they are still nave enough about women’s hockey to just go out and play,” Johnson said of his all-freshman third line. “They play with energy. They have fun. They’ve initiated a lot of sparks in many of our games this year.”
UMD’s third line answered just over 15 minutes later as winger Julianne Jubinville chopped a floating rebound past Meghan Horras for the Bulldogs’ only score of the night. Linemate Tawni Mattila put a hard shot on Badger goalie Horras, and the puck bounced high and soft off her chest protection. Jubinville spotted it and waited long enough to get a good push on the puck as it flipped in the air in front of her.
“It was a good test for both teams and a good weekend for us to come out with three points. We played six pretty good periods and we’re in a good position,” Johnson said of his team’s effort on the weekend. “I enjoy these games and I wish we had more of them.”
Johnson added, “The bottom line is both teams come out of the weekend better because of it. It will help Duluth and us become better teams as we try to be there in March.”
“The difference tonight is they were 1-for-3 on the power play and we were 0-for-6,” Miller said of her team’s effort. “You’re not going to win a big game against an opponent that’s your equal if you’re 0-for-6 on the power play.”
Miller added, “There is probably nothing dividing the top four teams in the country. It’ll probably be whoever gets the bounce, wins the game.”
Both teams hope to get schoolwork and some rest during the break. Wisconsin will resume action against Wayne State the weekend of January 6th while UMD will visit Bemidji State on the 13th.