Heading into Minnesota Duluthâ€™s NCAA semifinal versus New Hampshire, Saara Touminenâ€™s chances of playing with a knee injury were listed as fifty-fifty. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the wrong half of that probability came up on game day.
â€œWe just asked everyone to step up and do the best you could,â€ coach Shannon Miller said.
To win, even with Kim Martinâ€™s 41 saves in the UMD net, they still needed someone to put the puck in the net. Answering that call was Laura Fridfinnson, a 5-foot-8 freshman from Arborg, Manitoba, who deflected in a pair of power play goals in the â€˜Dogs 3-2 win.
â€œThey were very similar,â€ she said. â€œOur defensemen give it back and forth a bit, and then they give it to [Haley] Irwin, and Irwin has a great shot. She keeps it low all the time, and I go to the net with my stick on the ice to tip it in.â€
â€œThe other one, [Heidi Pelttari] shot it, but it was basically the same play. Irwin gave it back to the defenseman, she shot, and I tipped it in.â€
Fridfinnson said that her line did not feel added pressure, despite being the only scoring line for UMD that was intact for the game.
â€œWe knew we could do it, therefore we didnâ€™t have the pressure on us. We just went out and played. We decided that we were going to be calm with the puck and play as well as we could.â€
Fortunately for UMD, her line centered by Irwin with Emmanuelle Blais on the right wing was able to produce, because the Bulldogs did not have a lot of other offensive options.
Miller instructed the trio to â€œuse their speed, use their talent, and score some goalsâ€.
â€œWeâ€™re a much deeper team than they are,â€ Wildcats coach Brian McCloskey said. â€œTheyâ€™ve got one big line thatâ€™s very good.â€
That big line is still improving, because Fridfinnson and Irwin are rookies, while Blais is just a sophomore.
Fridfinnsonâ€™s two tallies give her 22 goals and 21 assists on the season. Despite that production, she hasnâ€™t received much attention, as classmate Irwin won the WCHAâ€™s scoring title and was named the conferenceâ€™s Rookie of the Year.
â€œHaley Irwin has had a great year, too, and Iâ€™m just lucky that Iâ€™m her linemate, and we play great together,â€ Fridfinnson said. â€œIâ€™m just happy that our teamâ€™s doing well.â€
Given the lack of depth at forward for UMD, they couldnâ€™t afford to lose anyone else. Therefore, when Fridfinnson struggled to the bench in third period, it was a scary moment for the fans of the home team.
â€œIt was just a minor hit,â€ she said. â€œI was stunned, but then I got back on it.â€
Fridfinnson credits the schedule that the team has played to date for preparing the Bulldogs for the Frozen Four.
â€œWhen we play Wisconsin and Minnesota, theyâ€™re such great games. Ohio, St. Cloud — all the games are good, and they are great preparation. Wisconsin is here, weâ€™ll be playing them on Saturday, that just shows how great our league is for preparing us for tournaments like this.â€
Will the depleted UMD lineup be enough to get the job done against the two-time defending NCAA champions?
â€œThe players that we have in the lineup right now, the players that played today, we can get it done, and we have gotten it done,â€ Miller said. â€œOne of the last games that we played against Wisconsin, we had the exact same lineup we had today, and we beat them.â€
If they get the same scoring touch from Fridfinnson, they just might do it again.