Minnesota-Duluth women's hockey head coach Shannon Miller was vocal throughout the game from the bench about the number of UMD penalties to the point where she received one herself. By the middle of the game, it became apparent why special teams were important.
On a day where 4 seniors were honored prior to the game, Minnesota (32-1-1, 26-1-1-0 WCHA) scored 4 goals with the man advantage and killed a 5 minute major en route to defeating the Bulldogs 6-0 for the second straight night.
The Gophers, whose power play entered Saturday afternoon's game at Ridder Arena converting at nearly 30%, are dangerous enough controlling the puck. Giving the two-time defending national champions any additional help is rarely a recipe for success. Minnesota out-shot UMD 35-10 with almost twice as many shots on the power play than the Bulldogs had total.
"It's really fun in games like this for us to get some shots through and everything," Gophers defenseman Rachel Ramsey, who had 3 points, said following the game. "Everyone did an absolutely fantastic job of getting the puck through and getting to the net."
Minnesota-Duluth (13-13-6, 11-11-6-4 WCHA) held its in-state rival in check for the first part of the game. It took nearly 7:30 for either team to get a shot on goal. The Bulldogs had a couple chances, including the game's first power play, before Minnesota's Rachael Bona found freshman Kate Schipper for the game's first goal midway through the first period.
Sophomore goalie Amanda Leveille was rarely tested compared to her UMD counterpart Kayla Black; especially during the final 40 minutes. She nonchalantly made 10 saves for her NCAA-leading 13th shutout - and second in as many days - in the two teams' WCHA regular season finale.
"Amanda wasn't tested tonight, which is good for us," said Minnesota women's hockey head coach Brad Frost.
UMD's best chance to tie the game came early in the second period when Tea Villa had an open net during a Bulldogs power play. She was unable to convert and with that went Minnesota-Duluth keeping the game close.
Ramsey doubled the Gopher lead 6:35 into the second period with her 10th goal of the season. The junior's slap shot from the top of the slot beat a screened Black. Minnesota's Maryanne Menefee added another, her fourth of the weekend, seven minutes later on the power play.
The dagger for Duluth, however, came in the final minute of the second. Ramsey was boarded by Bulldog forward Megahan Huertas with 20 seconds remaining. Huertas received a game misconduct and Milica McMillen needed 9 seconds to make it 4-0.
That depth, which saw six goals Saturday by six different players, has been a major key to Minnesota's success this year. Neither Hannah Brandt nor Bona, who lead the team in scoring, lit the lamp. (Brandt did have 3 assists, though.)
"I think that's our biggest strength up front. Brandt and Bona are up towards the top nationally and they're on two different lines," Frost said. "So then you add the fact of (Meghan) Lorence and (Sarah) Davis and (Kelly) Terry and those guys, and they really produced this weekend."
"You can see us playing for each other out there," added Minnesota senior captain Bethany Brausen. "It makes our team very special."
Gopher forward Jordyn Burns scored her second goal of the season while freshman Dani Cameranesi notched her nation-tying eighth power play goal in the third period. Besides depth and special teams, however, the end of the regular season is a Gopher team playing its best hockey entering the playoffs.
"Yeah, I think we're definitely up there," Ramsey said. "I think we have another notch that we can push a little bit further, and we're really excited to see what exactly that is once playoffs start next weekend.
"This is the best we've played so far."
Minnesota, the WCHA regular season-winner, hosts St. Cloud State next weekend in the first round of the WCHA Playoffs. Friday's game begins at 7:00 p.m. CT and Saturday's starts at 4:00 p.m. If a third game is needed, it will be played Sunday March 2 at 4:00 p.m.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate