Tie with Duluth is year’s first blemish

Bridget Haeg

Apparently, trailing in a game does not sit well with Minnesota’s women’s hockey team.

So, despite playing one of the top teams in the nation, the Gophers only did it for one period this weekend.

But in a premier matchup between two of the top teams in the nation, top-ranked Minnesota couldn’t finish a sweep of third-ranked Minnesota-Duluth (7-1-2, 7-1-2 WCHA), winning 4-2 on Friday but tying 2-2 Saturday at Ridder Arena.

The fact that the Gophers (11-0-1, 11-0-1) found themselves in a two-goal deficit in the first period Friday – the first time they had trailed an opponent all season – proved this series would be a bit tougher for Minnesota than its previous five.

“That first period woke us up, and we responded well,” junior forward Krissy Wendell said.

Playing the remaining five periods with a noticeable increase in energy, the Gophers held the lead Saturday until Bulldogs senior forward Nora Tallus scored at 18:10 of the third Saturday, forcing an overtime that ended scoreless.

The Gophers, however, played most of their second game without Wendell, whose three points Friday increased her season point total to 37 – second both on the team and in the country.

Wendell crashed into the goal in the first period and is day-to-day with an abdominal wall contusion.

“When you lose a player of her caliber, it’s a huge loss,” Halldorson said. “So we weren’t the same team without her.”

But the other lines, which have only scored 27 of the team’s 72 goals this season, were able to provide fresh offensive production to compensate.

Junior defender Chelsey Brodt’s first-period slap shot set the tone for a Gophers lead, while freshman forward Liz Palkie netted her first career goal in the second.

Minnesota’s play without Wendell, however, stood out somewhat in the stat book, as the Gophers outshot the Bulldogs 37-23 Friday but only 31-26 Saturday.

That difference led to the indecisive overtime.

“I think the thing was that we just couldn’t capitalize on our scoring chances,” Brodt said. “That was a factor.”

Perhaps that was because Minnesota-Duluth came out with increased energy Saturday too.

After spending 16 minutes in the penalty box in game one, the Bulldogs reduced their penalty count to five Saturday, which coach Shannon Miller said made a significant difference.

“It really took all the wind out of our sails (Friday),” Miller said. “We don’t have a ton of depth on our team.”

But the Bulldogs clearly used whatever depth they had, as they successfully stopped the Gophers power play, which entered Saturday’s game with the nation’s best conversion percentage at 39.7 percent.

Minnesota-Duluth limited the top-ranked unit to a 1-for-13 weekend, with Minnesota freshman forward Bobbi Ross scoring the lone power-play goal Friday.

Minnesota senior goaltender Jody Horak made 45 saves on the weekend and, despite allowing four goals in the series, earned the Gophers’ praise.

Wendell said Horak’s solid saves, especially in Minnesota’s troublesome first period Friday, helped the Gophers to stay in the game.

“She was stopping the puck for us,” Wendell said Friday. “I don’t know how they didn’t go in, honestly.”

The Gophers strategy going into overtime proved a fitting description of the weekend series.

“We didn’t want to give up any good chances to Duluth,” Halldorson said. “But we were also going to play very aggressively and go for the win.”