ERIE, Pa. — The trip was long and many thought Minnesota Duluth didn’t stand much of a chance against No. 2 seed Mercyhurst, but somebody forgot to tell UMD coach Shannon Miller and her team that their task was almost impossible.
The Bulldogs showed tremendous resolve and confidence in front of a pressure-packed full house on the campus of Mercyhurst, coming back from two goals down to defeat the Lakers 3-2 in overtime.
Jessica Koizumi scored her second goal of the night on the power play at 11:16 of the overtime. Noemie Marin fired a shot from the right faceoff circle that Lauria Hosier could not control and Koizumi fired the rebound into an open net.
Koizumi was stunned when the puck went in.
“I don’t even remember what happened,” she said. “All I know is the red light went on and I was swarmed by my teammates. I couldn’t breath.”
It was a bitter ending for a Laker team that started so strong. This is the third straight Mercyhurst season to end with an overtime defeat in the NCAA quarterfinals.
Despite some early signs of nerves, Mercyhurst controlled the first period and outshot the Bulldogs 15-7. The Lakers took a 1-0 lead on their only first-period power play, when Stephanie Jones fired a point blank shot past UMD goaltender Riitta Schaublin. The play was a give-and-go from teammate Melissa Dianoski from behind the UMD goal.
The Lakers increased their lead early in the second period when Patty Kazmaier finalist Meghan Agosta picked off a clearing pass in the Bulldog zone, walked in and fired a low wrist shot in the right corner of the net.
Coach Mike Sisti felt the Lakers then had an opportunity to put the Bulldogs away: “We had three three-on-one chances later in the period and didn’t score. We had the chance to blow the game wide open.”
It didn’t happen.
What did happen was Michaela Lanzl brought UMD within one goal when she scored on a backhand shot with 2:07 left in the second period. The assist went to Saara Tuominen.
That goal seemed to energize the UMD bench and quiet the raucous sellout crowd of 1350 at the Mercyhurst Ice Center.
The Lakers outshot the Bulldogs 12-9, having the better scoring chances in the period. Strangely, the play in the period was carried by Duluth, which was a premonition of things to come.
In the third period, Duluth played solid transition hockey, and finally Koizumi capitalized. With 1:44 remaining, she scored after a wild scramble in front of Hosier to tie the game.
“It was a group of experienced players that knew what they had to do to get to Lake Placid and that was the difference,” Miller said after the emotional win.