ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Going all the way back to their first meeting during the 1998-99 season, St. Cloud State had faced off with in-state rival Minnesota-Duluth in 14 series without taking a weekend sweep, or even three points.
SCSU junior netminder and assistant captain Lauri St. Jacques made 42 of 43 saves on Saturday afternoon to steer the Huskies (12-13-1, 9-10-1 WCHA) to a 3-1 victory and complete the weekend sweep. Combined with yesterday’s 2-1 win, St. Jacques made 81 saves on 83 shots.
“She played phenomenal,” said St. Cloud State coach Jason Lesteberg. “She’s very focused right now, and the team’s going to be a bit more psyched with her in there coming off a big win where she played very well.”
Kristy Oonincx was the game’s offensive leader with two goals and an assist, all on the power play.
The first period began much like Friday’s opening round — Minnesota-Duluth (17-6-1, 15-6-1) jumped out quickly and controlled the puck early. But SCSU, led by St. Jacques in net, withstood the early pressure. As the period pressed on, the game eased into a battle for puck control, with both teams getting decent looks but no goals.
Duluth’s best opportunity of the first period came late, as freshman Tawni Mattila found herself alone with the puck in the St. Cloud zone as the Bulldogs killed a penalty. Mattila patiently approached St. Jacques in an attempt to outwait her, but St. Jacques maintained her composure and patiently stopped the puck, even as Mattila deftly switched to her backhand.
Early in the second period, UMD made yet another short-handed attempt, this time on a long breakaway chance by freshman Michaela Lanzl, but St. Jacques was again up to the task.
The Huskies came right back on the same power-play for the game’s first goal at 1:21 of the second period. Freshman Megan McCarthy tipped a shot by Kristy Oonincx past UMD goalie Riitta Schaublin for her fifth goal this season.
“[Schaublin] is big,” McCarthy said. “She covers a lot of the net. You’ve got to get her to move. I was fortunate to be in the right place.”
St. Jacques continued to stand tall in keeping Duluth off the board and preserving the lead. Minutes after the first goal, Lanzl made a nifty stickhandling move around her defender to leave her all alone in front, but was frustrated yet again.
From there, it was Schaublin’s turn to show off. The Bulldog goalie made impressive saves on wide open shots by forwards Hailey Clarkson and Marie-Michel Lemieux to keep Duluth in the game. St. Jacques answered with a phenomenal save on a shot by UMD standout Jessica Koizumi, yet another quality shorthanded scoring attempt, to preserve the lead late in the second.
SCSU’s second goal, much like the first, was scored on the power-play soon after a St. Jacques save. A shot by senior Ashley Stewart was tapped in mid-air by Oonincx, and the puck promptly hit the post and rolled straight across the goal line. After blowing the puck dead, referee Jay Mendel signaled that the puck had indeed crossed the line. A video review concluded that her stick was not too high, giving St. Cloud a 2-0 lead in the final minute of the second period.
The Huskies extended their lead to 3-0 four minutes into the third period with yet another power-play marker. Junior Denelle Maguet successfully worked the puck behind the UMD net and found Oonincx waiting in the slot for the one-timer.
Duluth worked feverishly to break onto the scoreboard, but St. Jacques continued to make save after save even as UMD mounted pressure in the attacking zone. The Bulldogs finally solved her on their 36th shot of the game, as junior blueliner Suvi Vacker connected on a screen shot from the point.
That tally was all the offense that Minnesota-Duluth could muster, however, as St. Jacques made seven more saves to preserve the lead.
“She’d make the initial save, and if there was a second shot, she was already square to the puck,” said Lesteberg. “That was crucial.”
UMD finished the weekend with a dismal 0-for-9 showing on the power-play and extended their season-high losing streak to three, the program’s longest losing streak since the WCHA’s inaugural 1999-2000 season.
“The last three games we’ve outshot our opponents by almost double,” said Minnesota-Duluth coach Shannon Miller. “We can’t seem to buy a goal or get the right bounces We still have to keep things in perspective though. I’d be more concerned if we weren’t playing well.”
St. Cloud, meanwhile, matches its season-high winning streak with four straight.
Minnesota-Duluth continues its road trip next weekend at Ohio State for a two-game league set. St. Cloud State plays host to No. 1 Wisconsin on Friday and Saturday afternoon at the National Hockey Center.
“We’re coming off a great weekend,” Oonincx said. “We’re coming together at the right time, and we’re very excited about facing another tough opponent on our home ice.”