ST. CLOUD, Minn. — A defensive battle between Minnesota-Duluth’s Riitta Schaublin and St. Cloud State’s Lauri St. Jacques lasted well into the third period, until Kristy Oonincx buried a loose puck to lift St. Cloud to a 2-1 victory over the No. 3 Bulldogs.
St. Jacques stopped 39 of 40 shots to lead St. Cloud (11-13-1, 8-10-1 WCHA) to its second victory over a ranked team this season. The Huskies beat No. 4 St. Lawrence on Jan. 7.
“It’s always fun to play bigger teams,” St. Jacques said. “I think our team really rises to that challenge and really goes out and plays hard.”
With five and a half minutes left in regulation, Oonincx picked up a loose puck that emerged from a battle in front of the crease. Using the scrum as a screen, she poked the puck between Schaublin’s legs for the decisive goal.
“Every point right now is so key because we’re so close to other teams in the standings,” Oonincx said. “It was a huge win for everybody, and everyone played awesome tonight.”
UMD (17-5-1, 15-5-1) fashioned a spirited comeback effort but could not find the equalizer. St. Jacques made 10 saves in the final period to secure the victory.
“It didn’t seem like a lot of work,” St. Jacques said. “[My teammates] did a good job keeping the shots on the outside, so there wasn’t anything too traumatic or overly intense.”
The game was scoreless until St. Cloud State broke onto the scoreboard two minutes into the final period. On the goal, a bouncing puck in front of the net fell to the skates of St. Cloud freshman Megan McCarthy. Although she could not locate the puck at first, she managed to scoop it out before anyone else could touch it. She quickly flicked the puck into the net past Schaublin, who also had trouble locating the puck after moving out of position.
Minnesota-Duluth answered the Huskies’ goal just a minute and a half later, when UMD junior Jessica Koizumi roofed a shot top shelf past St. Jacques to tie the score at one.
In a weekend series at Duluth earlier this season, St. Cloud State led UMD twice heading into the third period, only to lose in the game’s final 20 minutes. After giving up the lead once tonight, St. Cloud did not let it happen again.
“The league is definitely becoming a bit more even,” said St. Cloud State coach Jason Lesteberg. “Some teams may have one or two players who may be star players, but there are many more teams that have depth, and that is important… This is a tough league, and you get pounded every week you play no matter who you’re up against.”
The win was the third straight for SCSU, propelling the Huskies into fourth place in the WCHA. Meanwhile, UMD dropped its second straight. The Bulldogs have only one goal in the last 120 minutes off of 75 shots on net.
“All year long we’ve scored in bunches,” said Minnesota-Duluth assistant coach Joakim Flygh. “It’s been really frustrating over the last couple of games that we haven’t really been able to put the puck in the net. We’re getting our looks and the shot selection has been there but we just aren’t getting control of the rebounds and bounces that we need.”
The two teams meet again Saturday for a matinee game at the National Hockey Center.