Fridfinnson Fills Offensive Void

Heading into Minnesota Duluth’s NCAA semifinal versus New Hampshire, Saara Touminen’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.

“We just asked everyone to step up and do the best you could,” coach Shannon Miller said.

To win, even with Kim Martin’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 ‘Dogs 3-2 win.

“They were very similar,” she said. “Our 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.”

“The 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.”

Fridfinnson said that her line did not feel added pressure, despite being the only scoring line for UMD that was intact for the game.

“We knew we could do it, therefore we didn’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.”

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 “use their speed, use their talent, and score some goals”.

“We’re a much deeper team than they are,” Wildcats coach Brian McCloskey said. “They’ve got one big line that’s very good.”

That big line is still improving, because Fridfinnson and Irwin are rookies, while Blais is just a sophomore.

Fridfinnson’s two tallies give her 22 goals and 21 assists on the season. Despite that production, she hasn’t received much attention, as classmate Irwin won the WCHA’s scoring title and was named the conference’s Rookie of the Year.

“Haley Irwin has had a great year, too, and I’m just lucky that I’m her linemate, and we play great together,” Fridfinnson said. “I’m just happy that our team’s doing well.”

Given the lack of depth at forward for UMD, they couldn’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.

“It was just a minor hit,” she said. “I was stunned, but then I got back on it.”

Fridfinnson credits the schedule that the team has played to date for preparing the Bulldogs for the Frozen Four.

“When we play Wisconsin and Minnesota, they’re such great games. Ohio, St. Cloud — all the games are good, and they are great preparation. Wisconsin is here, we’ll be playing them on Saturday, that just shows how great our league is for preparing us for tournaments like this.”

Will the depleted UMD lineup be enough to get the job done against the two-time defending NCAA champions?

“The 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,” Miller said. “One of the last games that we played against Wisconsin, we had the exact same lineup we had today, and we beat them.”

If they get the same scoring touch from Fridfinnson, they just might do it again.