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Both No. 3 Minnesota (15-2-1, 9-2-1 WCHA) and Minnesota State (3-12-1, 2-9-1 WCHA) looked ready to begin their holiday breaks.
The Gophers, despite tallying 61 shots on goal, struggled early and trailed by a goal through most of the first period.
The Mavericks had eight power-play opportunities yet often seemed to loose momentum when they had the advantage.
What it lead to was a 3-1 Minnesota victory as the teams played their final game of 2002 at All Seasons Arena.
The Gophers, who had sat rookie standouts Natalie Darwitz and Krissy Wendell for disciplinary reasons Saturday, had their full contingent of players dressed Sunday. Head coach Laura Halldorson, who had made lineup changes out of necessity Saturday, shuffled her lines again in the series finale but the team stuggled to adjust.
“I let people play with some different players and tried to get everybody in,” she said. “We ended up switching back in the third period because I didn’t think we were generating any continuity or scoring chances.”
Minnesota State took advantage of a Minnesota miscue early when goalie Jody Horak and Ronda Curtin misplayed a puck between them and Amanda Osborn snuck in to pick up the loose puck in the left circle and shot into an open net just 3:05 into the game.
Maverick goalie Shari Vogt made that lead stand until the waning moments of the opening period when Kristy Oonincx deflected a puck through the five hole to even the score at 17:58.
The Gophers went on to take the lead for good at 7:03 of the second period when Allie Sanchez converted a pass from Krista Johnson for the eventual game-winner.
Still, Vogt kept MSU in the game, stopping 25 of 26 shots in the second period and 38 of 40 through the first 40 minutes. She would face another 21 shots in the final period and allowed just one goal by Wendell at the 9:15 mark, when the team’s top scorer picked up a loose puck along the left boards, cut to the middle, deked around Vogt and tucked home her 17th goals of the season.
The Mavericks were still in the game until the end and, with 2:30 to play, were set to go on a five-on-three power-play. Head coach Jeff Vizenor called a timeout and sent his team out looking to cut the lead to one. However, they managed just two shots on goal and, effectively, the game was over.
MSU could take pride in the fact that they held Wendell off the scoresheet for nearly 50 minutes and became the first team this season to shutout Darwitz. Vizenor was proud of his team’s effort.
“I thought we played with a lot of heart,” he said. “We’re still in the building process. We’re learning from the little things. When the game gets tight, we get tight, like that five-on-three at the end. It’s a learning experience for us.”
He was also pleased with the play of Vogt, who kept the Mavericks in the game until the end.
“She was on fire,” he said. “I know through two periods it was a 2-1 game and it was because of her. I just can’t come up with enough superlatives to talk about her.”
Halldorson wasn’t ready to point to the team’s recent schedule as a mitigating factor for her’s lackluster effort, but said they can use the time off.
“Our wear and tear showed a little this weekend, but I thought we could have played a little harder” she said. “There’s no question this break comes at a good time for us, but we need to keep getting better and, regardless of it we’re tired, we need to be mentally stronger.”
In all, the Gophers had a 61-19 advantage in shot on goal. For Vogt, who earned the game’s number one star and finished with 58 saves, it was the second time this season she has faced more than 60 shots. Horak had 18 saves for Minnesota.
Both teams are now off until after the new year, with Minnesota State returning to play Jan. 4-5 with a pair of home games versus Quinnipiac. The Gophers are off until Jan. 10-11 when they will play a home-and-home series with St. Cloud State.