LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Twenty-seven years after participating in Team USA’s 1980 “Miracle On Ice,” Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson returned to Lake Placid for the first time in a competitive setting at the Herb Brooks Rink.
“I’ve got a pretty good little streak going,” he said, smiling, after Wisconsin won.
With stifling defense and timely goal scoring, his Badgers captured a second consecutive national championship, with a 4-1 win over Minnesota-Duluth.
“27 years ago I walked away from this city with something special,” Johnson said. “And if I can do something similar for this team, then I know that whenever they hear ‘Lake Placid’ they can look down at their ring and they will have memories that will last them for the rest of their lives.”
The Badgers received a goal and two assists from tournament Most Outstanding Player Sara Bauer, who finished with six points in the Frozen Four. Wisconsin goalie Jessie Vetter had her NCAA scoreless streak snapped, but made 17 saves in the victory. Wisconsin exploded for three goals in the second period, including an exclamation point just 10 seconds after the only Minnesota-Duluth goal.
“We weren’t able to contain them,” said Shannon Miller, head coach at Duluth, about Wisconsin’s top forwards. “They’re a great team, with lots of depth and a great coaching staff. They are a quality opponent.”
“During a game like this, you are just so excited to play,” said Bauer. “And that energy really carried us.”
On the other hand, the Bulldogs, perhaps worn down from the grueling double overtime affair on Friday night with Boston College, didn’t have much zip in their skates.
“All year long I’ve pushed and encouraged the kids to dig deeper and play harder, and that’s what got us into this game,” said Miller. “But it was obvious to me watching my team from the locker room, from the bench, on the ice that we had just a half tank.”
This was the first time UMD has lost a NCAA final — the Bulldogs have three championships from the three previous times they have played in the last game of the season.
Duluth’s Kim Martin got the nod in net today, starting for the first time in this NCAA tournament, and finished with 20 saves.
After Friday night’s win over BC, Miller was asked about playing Wisconsin, a known foe, in the title game. “We have to avoid penalties,” Miller said then. “We know we can play with them when it is 5 on 5.”
Sure enough, the first goal in the game, for Wisconsin, was a power play goal. With Tawni Mattila off for body checking, Wisconsin went on the attack. The first power play unit gave way to the second, and just before the power play expired, the first power play unit again took the ice.
The line swap paid off immediately, as Sara Bauer won the ensuing faceoff in the Duluth zone, passed the puck ahead to a streaking Jinelle Zaugg, who scored her third goal of the Frozen Four, with just two seconds remaining on the power play. Zaugg was later named to the All-Tournament team.
The Bulldogs had to be a little concerned, as Wisconsin goalie Jessie Vetter had yet to allow a goal in this year’s NCAA Tournament. They could take heart, though, because in both last week’s quarterfinals and Friday’s semi, UMD had overcome deficits before going on to win the game.
Wisconsin increased its lead in the second period with a goal scored in the middle of a Wisconsin line change. Taking advantage of some Wisconsin pressure, Jinelle Zaugg quickly switched with Erika Lawler, to get some fresh legs on the ice. Lawler then took a pass from Meghan Duggan, and took a shot that Martin initially stopped, but snuck through to inch across the line.
A third goal a few minutes later seemed to seal the game. Duluth was applying a little pressure, when Wisconsin defender Meaghan Mikkelson got control of the puck and skated it to center ice. Mikkelson passed off to Sara Bauer, who skated unmolested into the UMD zone, and roofed a shot over Martin’s shoulder.
It looked like Minnesota-Duluth might be able to claw back into this game with a power play goal at 14:23. A shot by Noemie Marin bounced off Emmanuelle Blais, and the resulting goal ended Wisconsin’s scoreless streak in the NCAA tournament at 422:38.
“It was just a power play shot that bounced off a shin,” said Vetter. “I was just sorry that the goal differential went down.”
But just 10 seconds later Wisconsin answered with a goal to restore the three goal cushion. Off the center zone faceoff, Badger center Erika Lawler lost the faceoff but got to the resulting loose puck first. With a two goal deficit, UMD was trying to be agressive, and had forward Tawni Mattila replacing one of the defensemen on the faceoff. When Mattila raced for the offensive zone, Lawler had a clear path to the net.
She skated in on the goal and took a shot, which Martin got a pad on. But the rebound went right to Jasmine Giles, howver, and Giles scored her eighth goal of the season.
“They really picked me up,” said Vetter. “I made sure I said ‘thank you’ to the players in the celebration line, especially Jas.”
“If you get scored on or you score a goal, it creates energy,” said Johnson. “They got some energy from the power play goal, but we came right back and made it 4 to 1. That’s the sign of a team that thrives on
The third period featured smothering defense from Wisconsin, as the Badgers had the game safely in hand and could afford to play conservatively. The Bulldogs had just 4 shots on net in the final frame, none terribly threatening.
“The defense does a great job in front of me,” said Vetter. “I don’t see many shots, but the ones I see, I see.”
By winning a second consecutive title, the Badgers become the third team in the short seven-year history of the NCAA sponsored tournament to win back-to-back national championships. Minnesota won the two prior to Wisconsin’s run, and Minnesota-Duluth won the first three years the NCAA tournament was held. Wisconsin will try to equal that three-year stretch next season.
But the Badgers will have to try without the services on All Tournament team members forward Sara Bauer and defenders Bobbi-Jo Slusar and Meaghan Mikkelson, as well as forwards Heidi Kletzien and Phoebe Monteleone and goalie Christine Dufour, all of whom played their last game today as seniors. Minnesota-Duluth will lose leading scorer Noemie Marin, All Tournament forward Jessica Koizumi, defenders Jill Sales, Ashly Waggoner and Suvi Vacker, and goalie Riitta Schaublin to graduation.