MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota trailed for only the third time this season, was tied at the midway point of the final period for the first time, but the end result was eerily familiar, a 6-2 win over Minnesota-Duluth.
“They approach every game as the biggest game of the year and you saw how much it meant to them tonight when it’s 2-2 and we get that third and the place erupts and gives us some momentum,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said.
Amanda Kessel maneuvered through the UMD defense and finished off a rush at 12:15 of the third period, the first of three goals for the Gophers in a span of 1:45.
“Hannah [Brandt] made a nice little chip there and I was dead and I knew that we needed a goal badly,” Kessel said. “So I put everything I had into that to get open there and just saw her five-hole open and slid it in.”
Rachael Bona banged in the rebound of a Kelly Terry shot on the next shift for a 4-2 lead for the Gophers.
“They were playing against Duluth’s top line all night and did a great job on them defensively, but then to put one home to get up by two was big,” Frost said of Terry’s line with Bona and Becky Kortum.
Kessel found Meghan Lorence on the weak side soon after and another game was in hand.
Kessel’s three assists on the day added to her goal gives her 82 points for the season, eclipsing the 80 points that she put up as a sophomore.
Jordyn Burns completed the scoring in the final minute.
Earlier while killing a penalty, Jenna McParland made a big-time play to take the puck from the last Minnesota player back and beat Noora Räty for an unassisted, short-handed goal and tie the game 2-2 at 5:39 of the final period.
That could have been a deflating momentum, coming on the heels of a near-miss for Minnesota at the other end, but Kessel said she didn’t get the feeling the team’s winning streak (28-0, 22-0 WCHA) was about to end.
“If we were playing how we had played in the first period, I might have been a little nervous, but the fact that our team got our legs going, and our forecheck, and were getting chances, I wasn’t scared,” Kessel said.
When the teams played in Duluth this past November, UMD was the team that was dealing with injuries. This time, Minnesota had a number of players hurting, including center Sarah Davis, who missed the game after a mid-ice collision with the Bulldogs’ Katie Wilson the night before, and UMD took advantage.
“[Minnesota-Duluth] played a great game,” Kessel said. “They were all over us. They had a great forecheck, a great backcheck.”
The Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission and appeared to have the game right where they wanted it.
“The first period was not how our team plays,” Kessel said. “We came out slow and flat and Duluth was playing well, so to get those power-play goals was huge.”
Minnesota got a pair of power-play goals in the second period from Brandt and Milica McMillen to overcome the early UMD advantage.
“We challenged our power plays today because last night we didn’t generate enough and obviously didn’t score,” Frost said. “Those were two big goals for us in the second.”
Pernilla Winberg had struck halfway through the opening 20 minutes to give the Bulldogs hope for a crucial road win, assisted by Jordan Krause and Zoe Hickel. Instead, it wound up as the first four-game sweep of the season series in the history of the two programs.
“It’s pretty incredible,” Frost said. “They’ve always been a huge rival for us, just like Wisconsin. We hadn’t swept a four-game series from Wisconsin since 2000, so it’s pretty remarkable to think back of the program’s history and 15 years and never sweeping Duluth.
“So it’s pretty special.”