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Minnesota Duluth Upsets Wisconsin to Set Up Saturday Title Showdown

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Minnesota Duluth came into this weekend’s series knowing that they needed to win both games against top-ranked Wisconsin to win the WCHA regular season title. They got the first one with a 4-2 win on Friday evening, setting up a big game on Saturday afternoon to decide the league title.

The Bulldogs came out ahead of a wild back-and-forth first period, scoring in the period’s final minute to take a 3-2 lead into the locker room. They would add to their lead in the second period with a goal, and from there, their defense would take over for the victory.

Here was the final scoring for the game.

First Period

5:48 Nicole LaMantia from Makenna Webster and Casey O’Brien (power play) 1-0 Wisconsin

On the power play, Webster circled the zone before getting the puck to LaMantia at the top of the point. LaMantia’s shot scored through traffic.

7:20 Lizi Norton from Kailee Skinner and Clara Van Wieren 1-1 tie

Norton took a shot from the left point that beat a screened Kennedy Blair for the goal.

10:29 Anna Klein from Gabbie Hughes and Taylor Stewart 2-1 Minnesota Duluth

A UMD shot from the point was stopped, but Klein came in from the right circle to score on the rebound.

15:32 Brette Pettet from Daryl Watts and Sophie Shirley 2-2 tie

Pettet found a loose puck in the slot and jammed it home for the goal.

19:38 Gabbie Hughes from Ashton Bell and Anneke Linser 3-2 Minnesota Duluth

On a 3-on-2 rush, Hughes made a cross-ice pass to Bell, and Bell made a pass back to Hughes on the right wing for the goal.

Second Period

10:45 Gabbie Hughes from Anna Klein and Taylor Anderson 4-2 Minnesota Duluth

Hughes took a cross-ice feed from Klein and took a shot from the left wing that snuck through Blair.

Third Period

None

Notes and Thoughts

-Well this just got a whole lot more interesting. It seems crazy to think UMD could win the WCHA this year, but thanks in large part to the way schedules worked out this year, they’ve just got to win tomorrow to be league champions.

It probably would have made more sense to take the route that Hockey East did and just not award a regular season championship due to the heavily imbalanced schedules, but it’s too late for that now. And we’ll end up with a pretty interesting hockey game tomorrow as a result.

-UMD came out on fire in the first period, playing fast aggressive hockey, but a pair of mistakes kept Wisconsin in the game early.

The first came on a bad line change where the player entering the ice grabbed a puck near the bench and the Bulldogs got called for too many players on the ice. Just a few seconds earlier, a similar play happened near the Wisconsin bench on a line change, but the oncoming player was smart enough to let the puck go, even though it cost the Badgers possession, to avoid the penalty. Wisconsin ended up scoring the game’s first goal on the ensuing power play.

On the second, Wisconsin dumped the puck on goal from center ice to make a line change. The UMD defender was a little slow to get back and turn the puck up the ice and Daryl Watts, to her credit, came flying in hard off the bench and ended up forcing a turnover on what should have been an easy breakout. Wisconsin got the puck to the front of the net, and while Watts drew extra help from the UMD D, that opened things up for Brette Pettet to clean up in front of the net.

-I was ready to call it a great first period for Wisconsin to take Minnesota Duluth’s best shot and still come out of the period tied. But it felt like the game really swung when UMD was able to score in the final minute of the period and come out of it with a one goal lead. There was some really sloppy D-zone coverage by Wisconsin on the rush today, especially on that goal that I would expect UW to clean up for tomorrow.

-Gabbie Hughes scored two goals on seven shots on goal tonight as she continues to bounce back from a brutal shooting drought to start the season. After scoring just once on her first 50 shots on goal to start the season, she now has seven goals in her last 25 shots.

-Wisconsin pulled their goalie with just under three minutes to play and weren’t able to get a single shot through to the UMD net. Their best chance came off a timeout with 1:26 left to play when Wisconsin was able to get the play they drew up, a great chance out in front for Brette Pettet in that area of the slot she loves to hang out in, but UMD’s Ashton Bell made an incredible shot block. That was the start of an incredible shift by Bell where she made two or three more really key players to help secure the victory for the Bulldogs. She’s made a strong case for herself as the WCHA’s best defenseman this year.

-League title is on the line at 2:07 Saturday. I wouldn’t have given UMD much of a chance to pull it off, but after seeing how they played on Friday, they just might have a shot at it.