LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — It’s fitting that since both Boston College and Minnesota-Duluth advanced to the Frozen Four via overtime games, this match-up would produce a double overtime game.
In the first ever meeting between these two squads, the Bulldogs won a nail-biter 4-3 that took 94:19 to decide. Late into the fifth period of the game, Jessica Koizumi took a pass from Sara O’Toole, skated in, clanged a shot off the goalpost and past BC’s Molly Schaus for the victory, catapulting UMD into the NCAA title game for the fourth time. Minnesota-Duluth’s Riitta Schaublin had 29 saves in the win.
“It was funny, that goal,” said Koizumi. “Because we’ve been practicing it all year, and this time it worked out. That’s called a ‘middle drive’ and I knew I’d have the whole lane to the net.”
The victory was the 200th win for Minnesota-Duluth head coach Shannon Miller. “That was just an unbelievably good game,” she said.
Boston College coach Tom Mutch agreed.
“That’s hockey. That’s goaltending. That’s fun,” he said. “If you don’t like that game, then I guess you don’t like hockey.”
Historically, these teams couldn’t be more different. The Bulldogs won three straight NCAA titles from 2001 to 2003, and have appeared in all but one of the seven NCAA tournaments. Boston College, on the other hand, is appearing in its first ever NCAA tournament and Frozen Four. UMD is led up front by seniors Noemie Marin (49 points) and Jessica Koizumi (37) and in goal by senior Riitta Schaublin (1.74 goals against average), while the Eagles are relying heavily on three freshmen, forwards Kelli Stack (54 points) and Allie Thunstrom (46), and goalie Molly Schaus (1.87 GAA).
However, both teams are similar in many ways: both lost in their conference semifinals but made the NCAA tournament anyway; both advanced to the Frozen Four with 3-2 overtime road wins over higher-seeded opponents that were winners of their respective conference tournaments (BC over ECAC champ Dartmouth in 2 ot, UMD over CHA winner Mercyhurst); and both received goals from three different goal scorers in regulation.
This is the third game to go into extended overtime for BC. On February 2, the Eagles skated to a 4-3 win after 14:13 in triple overtime against Harvard. And last week’s NCAA quarterfinal against Dartmouth went to 4:20 of double overtime.
“I asked the coach, ‘What’s it like to end a game in regulation?’ because it’s been awhile,” said BC goalie Molly Schaus, who finished with 47 saves.
Boston College got on the board first with a goal by Deborah Spillane. Following an Allie Thunstrom shot on goal with one of her own, both of which were blocked by Schaublin, Spillaine collected her own rebound behind the net and tossed it toward the goal. The puck bounced off the back of Schaublin’s skate and into the net.
Duluth got the equalizer later in the period off the stick of team scoring-leader Noemie Marin. Marin broke into the zone and skated across the goal mouth. Before Schaus could get over to block the far side of the net, Marin had scored her 24th goal of the season.
Later in the period, BC’s Meghan Fardelmann took a pass from Maggie Taverna that sent her breaking into the zone. She skated into the slot and wristed a shot that found the back of the net. The goal was Fardelmann’s 24th of the year.
Less than a minute into the second period, UMD tied the score again when Jessica Koizumi, who had the overtime game-winner in the NCAA quaterfinals against Mercyhurst, took a pass behind the net, skated around the goal to the far faceoff dot, and ripped a shot that eluded Schaus.
Yet again, the Eagles took the lead with Becky Zavisza’s 19th goal this season. With the Bulldog’s Emmanuelle Blais in the box for interference, BC had a power play. Defenseman Erin Blood took a shot from the middle of the blue line, which Zavisza, at the edge of the crease, redirected in for the goal.
With the modest one-goal lead, BC was playing conseratively, which led to more chances for Minnesota-Duluth. Schaus came up huge in the third period, particularly when she stoned Michaela Lanzl with a poke check on a solo breakaway, and during a UMD power play that produced a flurry of Bulldog shots.
But the increased pressure finally paid off for Duluth, as Lanzl tied the game with just five minutes remaining in regulation. Sara O’Toole knocked a puck loose that produced a two-on-one break for the Bulldogs. O’Toole elected to pass to Lanzl, who buried the opportunity to even the score. It was the second straight game that Duluth came from behind to force overtime in the waning moments of the third period.
“I thought it symbolized our season that Schaublin made a key save, and then we go down to the other end and Lanzl scores,” said Miller. “Our goalie’s been such an important part of our team all season.”
The overtime period featured some excellent offensive opportunities for both teams. The best chances came from earlier goal scorers — UMD’s Marin had a shot at the crease turned away by Schaus, and BC’s Zavisza got a shot off before being dragged down in the slot on a non-call.
Oddly enough, the best chances for both teams in the second overtime, prior to the game-winner, came while shorthanded. Each team enjoyed a power play — first BC, then the Bulldogs. But neither power play looked sharp and both failed to get a single shot off during the advantage, while the shorthanded teams had good scoring opportunities.
“I thought we played really well when we were short a player,” said Mutch. “It really causes your intensity level to go up.”
With the win for Minnesota-Duluth, Sunday’s final with Wisconsin will be an all-WCHA affair for the second straight year. Last year, Wisconsin met Minnesota in the title game. A WCHA team has won the national championship in all seven years the NCAA has sponsored the tournament.
Wisconsin has lost only one game all year, and Minnesota-Duluth is responsible for that loss, which came back in November in the first meeting between the two teams this season.
“We’re happy to be playing anyone in the finals, of course,” said Miller. “But the fact that it is Wisconsin makes it particularly good. We split with them in our first series, then in the second series, both games went to overtime, when we tied and lost. It’s nice to get another bite at that apple.”
Schaublin and the Bulldogs all think they have a good chance in the final game.
“We’ve come together as a team,” said Schaublin. “This is the best team I’ve ever played on, because we love each other so much.”
BC’s loss in this semifinal game means the season is over. However, nearly all the players, and all the key ones, are returning next year to a team that won a school-high 24 games this season.
“Even if we never get back here, the kids who didn’t even think of playing D1 hockey when we took them will have something to remember for the rest of their lives,” said Mutch. “To go to 2 overtimes against such a well-coached team is absolutely amazing. We watched these kids grow up right before our eyes and we didn’t even know it.”