DULUTH, Minn. — During the first three years of the WCHA, it appeared that it would be hard for one team to make a clean sweep of the two league titles plus the national crown.
Maybe not — the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs become the sixth straight conference member to sweep all three championships in the same season with their 4-0 win over the Wisconsin Badgers.
Obviously, were very excited to have won just the fourth national championship for our program, for UMD womens hockey, but for many of these girls of course its their first national championship, Coach Shannon Miller said.
She agreed that it is difficult to win the WCHA’s version of the Triple Crown.
Even after we won the season, I thought to myself, wouldnt this be great if we could win the [WCHA] championship. Once we won that, I think you start to believe a little bit more. Your kids start to believe.
UMD (34-4-1) got goals from Haley Irwin, Emmanuelle Blais, Sara OToole, and Karine Demeule in winning their record fourth NCAA title.
Tournament Most Outstanding Player Kim Martin followed up her brilliant 41-save performance on Thursday with 28 saves in posting the shutout win.
I got a chance to win a national championship my senior year at home, captain Demeule said. Its like perfect; its like a dream right now.
UMD got on the board with 37.6 seconds left in the first period with a delayed penalty pending on Wisconsin. With Jessie Vetter down and deep in the net, Haley Irwin knocked in a loose puck. Jocelyne Larocque took the initial shot, and OToole also assisted.
We were just going to the net hard, Irwin said. The rebound just sat there, and I just jammed away at it, and finally it went in.
The play was reviewed and discussed for some time before the goal was posted on the scoreboard and play resumed.
Somebody blew a whistle behind the goal line, said Badger coach Mark Johnson. It certainly looked to me like the whistle blew before the puck entered the net.
At no time did [referee Scott Leavitt] indicate that it was a goal, because his arm stayed up. He never pointed to the net and said the puck was in.
The Bulldogs extended their lead when Blais backhanded in a power play rebound with 8:12 to go in the second period with Laura Fridfinnson and Jaime Rasmussen earning the assists.
UMD got some insurance with a shorthanded goal late in the second period. Sara OToole broke in alone and beat Vetter high to the glove side.
The Badgers (29-9-3) struggled on the power play, failing to capitalize on ten opportunities and yielding the shorthander to UMD.
We had a real difficult time getting the puck into the offensive zone, Johnson said. When we did set it up, at times we moved it around pretty well. When we did create some scoring opportunities, they seemed to block shots.
That frustration extended to five-on-five play; the Badgers were never able to get anything going offensively.
We know Martin is a great goalie, and when shes on, shes really on, senior captain Jinelle Zaugg said. Our goal was to shoot the puck, and we really need to get on top of those rebounds. A few slipped away from us that we should have had.
Demeule put the exclamation mark on her career with a late goal into an empty net for the final 4-0 score.
Wisconsin was bidding to be the first team to win an NCAA championship after opening on the road for the quarterfinal round.
Its a long journey to get here, Johnson said. It takes a lot of commitment on the players part. To let it slip away is very disappointing.
However, just reaching the championship game was a great accomplishment for a young team.
A lot of people didnt think wed make it this far; we proved them wrong, Zaugg said.
Where one young team fell short, another triumphed. Eight of UMDs top nine scorers were freshmen or sophomores, as are 5 of their 6 defensemen, plus Martin in net.
Every time there was a hurdle in front of us, we cleared it, Miller said. Every time there was a wall in front of us, we went around it.
UNH is probably the best team weve played this year, and we got so lucky to get through that game–it’s unbelievable. We survived that game, and then today I felt that we pulled together almost a perfect hockey game for sixty minutes.
Goalie Martin was joined on the Frozen Four All-Tournament team by four teammates, forwards Fridfinnson and OToole, plus defensemen Myriam Trepanier and Heidi Peltarri. Badger forward Erika Lawler also was named to the squad.
To win it, of course, were ecstatic, Miller said. Were going to celebrate tonight; weve worked really hard all season, and we have a lot to celebrate and be proud of.
We wont be the underdog next year. We seldom are the underdog, because our program has so much success. Bottom line is this — we have to let them enjoy it. And then in May, we have to start working out again, and thinking about next year.