DULUTH, Minn. — Faced with a must-win game against the No. 1 team in the country, Minnesota-Duluth found a way to come out on the right side of a 3-1 decision.
“Obviously, it’s the biggest win of the year for us,” Bulldogs coach Shannon Miller said.
Freshman Jenna McParland scored the game-winning goal late in the middle frame by faking a shot to get around the defense and get to the crease, then reaching across to finish inside the far post.
“I just kept my feet moving and drove the puck, and the middle was open, so I just drove it to the net and tucked it in,” McParland said.
The Bulldogs (21-13-1) added an empty-net goal for the final 3-1 margin off of the stick of rookie defenseman Brigette Lacquette. Lacquette said she was just trying to clear the puck from her own zone as Wisconsin (31-4-2) attacked six-on-four in the final seconds.
“I watched it all the way,” she said. “I was just hoping it would go in.”
The Bulldogs grabbed the early lead after Haley Irwin forced a turnover, Audrey Cournoyer collected her own rebound, skated to the net front, made Alex Rigsby commit, and backhanded the puck into the open net.
Brianna Decker tied it at 1-1 on a second-period power play, beating a defender with a toe drag and finishing high to the glove side of Jennifer Harss. Alev Kelter and Rigsby assisted.
“I think our team kind of picked up our pace, and it gave us a little momentum throughout the second,” Decker said.
Harss made several huge saves in the opening minutes, including stopping Madison Packer on a breakaway and denying Wisconsin during an extended five-on-three power play. The Badgers were also unsuccessful with a two-skater advantage for over a minute in the third period.
Wisconsin captain Hilary Knight felt her team didn’t get the bounces it wanted during these sequences. When asked what they’d have liked to do different on these opportunities, Decker just smiled and said “score.”
Harss finished with 32 saves, while Rigsby made 35 on the other end, including racing back to the net and diving to deny an earlier empty-net chance.
“Both goalies played well, and that’s what you’d expect this time of year,” Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson said.
The Badgers know that they’ll still be hosting an NCAA quarterfinal in another week, just not with a WCHA tournament trophy in had.
Johnson said his players will need to look at how each one prepared for the game and learn from it, and they’ll need to execute better in that NCAA tournament.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are one win away from locking up a spot in the eight-team field.
“There’s no question that we have a lot of potential, and you’re starting to see that now,” Miller said. “It’s late in the season, but good timing.”