DULUTH, Minn. — Bemidji State co-interim coach Jim Ingman was very emotional after his team’s 3-0 season-ending loss to Minnesota-Duluth.
“I helped recruit most of the seniors that played tonight,” Ingman said with tears in his eyes. “Those players have been through so much, two new coaches, the change this year. I am so proud of how they pulled themselves together for the last 16 games. To get some big wins, to know they played toe to toe with some of the best players in the world. That’s what they’ll take with them for the rest of their lives. It’s the kind of experience that builds character and goes beyond what happens on the ice. The wins in the second half of this season will mean a lot for those players who will be here next year.”
Bemidji put together a better game against UMD in this second game of the series, but UMD goaltender Riitta Schaublin was up to the task for her fourth shutout of the season. Both teams had several good power play opportunities and extended five-on-three chances. Still, neither team came away with power play points.
UMD’s Jessica Koizumi got the scoring started for UMD with five minutes left in the first. The puck that had been stalled to the left of BSU’s net, suddenly popped out to the front, and Koizumi was the only skater there, slamming it between Jill Luebke’s skates. It was Koizumi’s sixth consecutive game with a point and third straight with a goal.
Ingman had planned on starting sophomore Emily Brookshaw in goal but changed his mind after the morning skate, feeling the senior tender, Luebke, deserved to go out with the start as it could be the last game for BSU. Luebke made him proud, as UMD worked hard for each goal of the evening.
UMD’s Sara O’Toole scored to put the Bulldogs up 2-0 with less than a minute left in the first. The freshman winger went one-on-one to the net against BSU defender Laura Lankton. O’Toole used the screen and ripped a sharp-angled wrist shot that went between Lankton’s skates off the left post and into the back of the net.
Senior Larissa Luther finished the scoring for UMD with a hard-earned goal with just four minutes remaining in the game. With Luebke unable to control the puck and no BSU defender able to knock it away, Luther stuck with the puck until it crossed the line.
UMD coach Shannon Miller was pleased with the way her team played, particularly at the end when it was important to focus on keeping the lead and killing the clock.
“The team has a good feeling to it, and they’re having fun out there,” Miller said. “It’s a good way to head into next week’s game against the Gophers.”
Bulldog assistant captain Noemie Marin sustained a knee injury in the second period but plans on playing next weekend against Minnesota in the semifinal game.
“It’s always fun to play the Gophers because it’s a great rivalry,” she said. “We have things to work on and we’ll practice them, but we’ll be ready.”
The captain walked away with a big smile on her face, filled with joy for sweeping this series and anticipation for the next game.
For BSU, the end of the season represents a new beginning. BSU will be having a national search for a new head coach. Ingman said he has not yet made up his mind at this point whether he will apply.