MINNEAPOLIS — Everyone expected Minnesota to play better than two weeks ago in Duluth, when UMD swept the two-game series by a combined score of 12-2. The question was whether Minnesota could play well enough to get past the Bulldogs in the WCHA semifinals.
The answer was “yes”, but just barely. The Gophers (23-11-1, 17-10-1 WCHA) needed a Gigi Marvin power play goal in overtime to defeat UMD (22-10-4, 19-6-3 WCHA) by a score of 3-2 and extend their season by at least one more game.
“I just looked up, saw an opening, and shot it,” said Marvin.
Her shot from the left circle found the upper right corner at 1:08 of OT, just 16 seconds after Ashly Waggoner was sent off for tripping. Brittany Francis and Bobbi Ross earned the assists.
“Obviously, it happened because of [Jenelle Philipczyk]. She drove wide and got hauled down, and we just capitalized,” Marvin said.
Bulldog coach Shannon Miller thought the play should have gone uncalled and told referee Jay Mendell as much after the game.
“I don’t know how you can make a call like that in overtime,” Miller said. “I think you should let the teams decide the winner and not the officiating.”
Mendell felt it was a call that he had to make.
The loss left UMD sitting a precarious eighth in the USCHO.com PairWise Rankings. The rankings suggest UMD would receive an invitation to the NCAA tournament only if neither Providence nor Minnesota earns a conference autobid.
Coach Laura Halldorson knows that the Gophers have to keep winning if they wish to keep playing.
“We’re just real excited that we’re moving on to the WCHA Championship game.”
The game added to the list of exciting contests played between UMD and Minnesota over the years.
“We’ve had great games in the past, and a lot of them have been with much at stake, and today is no exception,” said Halldorson.
“I was really proud of the players today, because they gave everything they had.”
The contest would not have gone to overtime without the play of Kim Hanlon, who made 21 saves.
“I thought Kim Hanlon was fantastic in net. It was a huge win for her, too,” said her coach.
Hanlon was particularly strong in the third period, when UMD outshot Minnesota 14-3. Michaela Lanzl almost got the game winner in regulation, but her shot hit the near post and bounced out.
“I had her on my angle that’s all I gave her was the post,” said Hanlon.
The one shot that Hanlon couldn’t stop in the third period came off of the stick of Jessica Koizumi.
She said, “It was just a scramble in front of the net. We were on the power play, so obviously we had the man advantage. I just buried the puck. I just saw it, I was in the midst of falling, because someone pushed me the goalie was out of position as well.”
Earlier, Minnesota took a 2-1 lead on a power play goal by Andrea Nichols and one at even strength by Melanie Gagnon. Saara Touminen contributed the other Bulldog goal on the power play.
“We knew coming into today that we owed them; we owed them big time,” said Hanlon.
The disaster in Duluth provided Minnesota with additional motivation, and UMD expected as much.
“They played better; their goaltender played better,” said Miller.
“I’m really proud of our team. I thought we came out and competed hard today, and played a fair and very well fought battle. I think it’s always unfair that when two very good teams compete that somebody has to be called a loser.”
Minnesota enjoyed being called a winner, a too rare occurrence in 2007.
“We’re obviously on a high right now we just won in overtime against a great team,” said Marvin “This team has come together and relied on each other. I think that showed through in our style of play today.”
Said Minnesota wing Erica McKenzie, “I think we’re really excited to play Wisconsin. The past is in the past — it’s one game now. It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve lost to them, or how many times we’ve beat them.”
“It’s one game, 60 minutes, and obviously, if we take that ‘W’, we’ll be heading to the NCAA tournament.”
No matter what happens on Sunday, Minnesota got to celebrate at least one more time in what has been a disappointing season.
“It was great to see these guys put their hands in the air and skate out to Gigi after she scored that goal; that was really exciting,” said Halldorson.