Maria Rooth recorded a hat trick, including the game’s final two goals, as No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth (10-1-2, 6-0-1 WCHA) overcame a two goal deficit to beat No. 1 Minnesota (13-1-1, 7-1-1-) 4-3. With 3,056 fans looking on, the Bulldogs scored three unanswered goals in the final period, including Rooth’s two goals in the last two minutes, 47 seconds.
Rooth’s game-winner came with just 23.7 seconds remaining when Tricia Guest carried the puck into the Gopher zone one-on-one with defenseman Melissa Coulombe. Guest was unable to get a clean shot off on goalie Jody Horak, but Rooth ripped the rebound into the top of the net for her ninth goal of the season.
UMD came into the weekend rested, not having played a game in 11 days while Minnesota has played not had a weekend off since opening the season with an exhibition game, Oct. 4. Both teams had players miss games earlier this month due to their participation in the Four Nations Cup and the break for the Bulldogs was important.
“We did not play close to this level two weeks ago when we played Harvard and Brown,” UMD coach Shannon Miller said. “‘Out of sync’ is a good term for where we were two weeks ago. Now that we have everybody together I think we’re all on the same page, we’re finding each other and it’s good to see that we can play this well together.”
Not only was the rest a factor, but so was the Bulldogs’ Torpedo system, which essentially utilizes one defenseman and four forwards, and was a big reason for the UMD comeback, with the team moving the puck well and using late attackers to score goals.
“The last two goals we scored were very much a part of the Torpedo system,” UMD head coach Shannon Miller said. “Five-on-five I felt we really dominated. We did a really good job of moving the puck in the offensive zone, using everybody and creating some good scoring opportunities, even when we were down 3-1.”
Minnesota head coach Laura Halldorson also credited the Bulldogs for their efforts in overcoming the two-goal deficit.
“They have some good players and they made some plays,” she said. “I don’t think there’s any one thing that can pinpoint why they scored those goals.”
A failed five-on-three power play late in the second period, with Minnesota enjoying 1:20 of two-man advantage, was a chance for the Gophers to put their guests in a big hole but they were unable to capitalize. However, the two coaches felt differently about the impact it had on the game.
“I was disappointed that we didn’t do a very good job on our five-on-three,” Halldorson said. “But, at the same time, does that one situation decide the game? I don’t think so.”
“That was huge,” Miller said. “Even when we went down five-on-four we knew that was going to be a big kill for us. That was a turning point. It probably deflated the Gophers a little bit and if gave our team a big lift.”
Minnesota grabbed the lead early when Natalie Darwitz scored on the power play at 7:05 of the opening period — the game’s only special teams goal. She picked up the puck in the neutral zone while both teams were changing lines and rushed into the UMD zone, put the puck between the feet of Bulldog defenseman Julianne Vasichek and then beat goalie Patricia Sautter over the shoulder.
The goal was just the third power play tally allowed by UMD in 13 games this season.
Rooth scored 10 minutes later when her shot from the left faceoff spot handcuffed Horak and evened the score, which would remain 1-1 until the final minute of the second period when Darwitz knocked in a loose puck that Sautter was unable to cover with 21.3 seconds on the clock.
The Gophers expanded the lead to 3-1 when Winny Brodt scored on a Kelly Stephens rebound 6:38 into the final period but it was all UMD after that.
Hanne Sikio got her team back in the game when she chased down a loose puck in the left corner of the Minnesota zone. She threw puck towards the net and it hit Horak in the side of the leg and deflected into the net at 9:24.
Rooth’s tip-in goal with 2:47 left in the third period finally tied the game and then, with the game appearing to be headed to overtime, Rooth completed her hat trick to finish the game.
During the 45:13 the teams played even strength, UMD outshot its host 35-14 and had a 39-25 advantage overall, including a 16-4 margin during the game’s final 20 minutes. Horak stopped 35 shots for the Gophers while Sautter made 22 stops for the Bulldogs.
The two teams faceoff again at 2:05 p.m. Sunday at Ridder Arena.