Gophers-Bulldogs start in-state rivalry

by Paul Markgraff

The University of Minnesota-Duluth women’s hockey team came to Mariucci Arena this weekend with one thing on its collective mind: winning.
Sure they wanted to garner some national respect for themselves. They wanted to show people they were a force to be dealt with in the WCHA-Women’s League. But most of all, they just wanted to win.
And maybe start a little rivalry along the way.
That’s exactly what they did, thanks to some tight play. The Bulldogs swept the Gophers this weekend in style with a pair of close games — they won 5-4 on Friday night and 1-0 on Saturday night.
Saturday, the Gophers looked better than they did in their loss to the Bulldogs on Friday night. But Bulldogs coach Shannon Miller said teams tend to be a little more tired for the second game.
After a decent start, that was it for looking good. Though the Gophers were able to move the puck out of their own zone a little more than Friday, Duluth still took advantage of poor passing decisions the Gophers made and worked the Gophers in their own zone.
The Bulldogs’ Joanne Eustace scored first at the end of the first period and they held on to win.
“I just went out and played my game,” she said “Going into the third period like that when you have a 1-0 lead, a lot of it comes down to conditioning when both teams are pretty close,” said Miller. “And I felt we had an advantage going into the third because we are a very, very fit team.”
And Friday night’s game was an even rarer bird. For the first two periods, the Bulldogs dominated the Gophers offensively and defensively. They left the ice with a 3-0 lead after two periods.
But if there is one thing the Gophers have shown in the past, it is that they are able to score multiple goals in very short periods of time.
So when the teams took the ice in the third period, Duluth let down their defenses just a little bit, and the Gophers took full advantage. Sophomore wing Laura Slominski struck first for the Gophers with an unassisted goal. Then, junior wing Nadine Muzerall scored one of her own.
Duluth seemed to take notice that their lead was slipping away, so they scored again.
Then, Slominski and junior wing Ambria Thomas netted two more for the Gophers, tying the game at four goals a piece.
Brittny Ralph, former Gopher defender turned Bulldog, ended the game in the Bulldogs’ favor with a goal of her own.
And in the process she might have started a little in-state rivalry.
“The first two periods we played a little tentatively. We realized that we were on the verge of losing,” said Gophers coach Laura Halldorson. “Every game we play against them this season is going to be a battle.”

Paul Markgraff covers women’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]