Sweep doesn’t come easy for women’s hockey

Aaron Blake

MIDDLETON, Wis. – With 45 seconds and a 4-3 score frozen on the scoreboard in the overtime period on Saturday night, Wisconsin defender Sis Paulsen broke her stick in disgust.

The blade slid just feet from a mob of celebrating Gophers who surrounded Jerilyn Glenn after her game winner.

Between the blade and the shaft, Wisconsin goaltender Jackie MacMillan was on her knees and elbows, motionless with disappointment.

The result of Glenn’s heroics was a No. 4 Minnesota (11-2-3, 7-1-2 WCHA) sweep of the 10th-ranked Badgers (6-7-2, 5-4-1) after a 4-1 Gophers victory on Friday.

“We showed a lot of grit and determination,” Gophers coach Laura Halldorson said. “(Saturday’s game) was probably our best win this season.”

The goal of an official in any sport is to be as invisible and affect the final outcome as little as possible.

But the referees working Saturday’s game can be given most of the credit for the dramatic finish. Paid to drop the puck, they instead dropped the ball.

Thirteen penalties, one reversed goal, one added goal and an upset crowd contributed to Minnesota’s most interesting game of the season.

After a Sarma Pone body-checking penalty in the first period, Paulsen’s slap shot was tipped by teammate Meghan Hunter and appeared to hit the post.

Play continued for another 45 seconds until a whistle blew. A review of Paulsen’s shot revealed the puck crossed the goal line and Hunter was credited with the power-play goal.

“Any time something like that happens, you can’t do anything about it,” Halldorson said. “You just have to keep playing and try to put it behind you. I think we did a pretty good job of that.”

The second period opened with a similar type of discord.

Wisconsin was given a delay-of-game penalty before the period began. But Julie Ortenzio, who served the time, took exception to the call by sprinting to the penalty box and raising her stick in acknowledgement after her name was called.

The Gophers eventually got on the board after senior captain Laura Slominski shook a defender and put a move on MacMillan for the first goal of her eventual hat trick.

After Slominski gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead at 8:29 of the second period, an official raised his arm for a La Toya Clarke hooking penalty. During the delay, defender Kelsey Bills was also called for tripping.

The Badgers five-on-three advantage led to a Hunter goal.

Moments after Bills left the penalty box, Minnesota freshman Kristy Oonincx beat a defender and scored on the resulting breakaway.

The goal was waived off immediately because the officials ruled a hustling Slominski was in the crease – though replays showed otherwise.

“It’s frustrating, but we just had to bounce back,” Oonincx said. “It’s something that happens in the game of hockey.”

The Gophers and Badgers each added goals in the third period and Glenn’s goal in late overtime resulted from a three-on-zero breakaway.

Glenn found the puck, a clear path to the goal and an opening under MacMillan to end the game in pure jubilation for Minnesota.

“It was up in the air and I got a lucky bounce,” Glenn said. “It came right to my stick and I was able to put it away.”

The Gophers also put away Wisconsin in less-dramatic fashion on Friday, dominating the second and third periods for the 4-1 win.

Glenn scored the game-winning goal late in the second period. Junior defender Ronda Curtin scored on a slap shot from the blue line and freshman forward Kelly Stephens tacked on an empty-net goal for good measure.

Minnesota freshman stopper Jody Horak saved 26 of 27 shots to remain undefeated at 5-0-1.

After Horak’s near-flawless performance, fellow freshman Brenda Reinen was given her first start in four games on Saturday and got the victory despite stopping only 14 of 17 shots.

The two wins extend Minnesota’s unbeaten streak to 10 games (8-0-2).

“Either three of four points on the weekend would have been considered successful,” Halldorson said. “But it’s definitely huge for us to come out with two wins.”

Aaron Blake covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]