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The Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs are back in familiar territory, competing for a fourth national championship in their home state. The 2008 National Champions won it all on their home ice, but this year’s event will be in a somewhat less hospitable venue: Ridder Arena, home of the arch-rival Minnesota Gophers.
The No. 2-seed Bulldogs (29-8-2) won the right to wrestle for the crown by defeating No. 7 New Hampshire 2-1 on Saturday afternoon in front of 523 at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Junior Jocelyne Larocque opened the scoring in the first period and rookie Jessica Wong concluded it in the third, while freshman Jennifer Harss made 23 saves in the win.
Senior Micaela Long scored the lone goal for the Wildcats (19-9-5), who fought neck-and-neck against the favored Bulldogs in an intense mid-afternoon battle. Third-year netminder Kayley Herman stopped 24 of 26 in the defeat.
The defenseman Larocque kicked things off only 2:42 into the game with her third goal of the season, but Long answered right back exactly three minutes later to draw the game at one apiece. UNH out-shot the Bulldogs 11-9 in the opening frame, but the host squad slowly began to swing the tide as the game progressed.
Each team took a penalty in the first period, and did the same in the second, to no result.
The special-teams goose-egg disappeared in the final stanza, however, as Wong broke 38:15 of deadlocked hockey with a power-play score from senior Emmanuelle Blais and freshman Katherine Wilson. UNH head coach Brian McCloskey’s team went full-tilt after that, drawing a Tara Gray cross-checking penalty with 6:06 to play. The Wildcats couldn’t break Harss, however, even when McCloskey pulled Herman with 80 seconds on the clock.
Minnesota-Duluth awaits the victor of Clarkson and Minnesota, with the semifinal scheduled for Friday night in Minneapolis. The other semi features Cornell against top-seeded Mercyhurst, also on Friday.