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Bulldogs rally, then weather a storm, beat Gophers 3-2

Trailing by a goal and back on their heels versus their chief in-state rivals, the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs got a trio of third period goals, then held off a furious Minnesota Gophers rally to win the opener of their weekend WCHA series.

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MINNEAPOLIS – With a storm raging outside Ridder Arena on Friday night, the Minnesota Gophers stormed their offensive zone late in the second and third periods of their game with Minnesota Duluth, desperate for a difference-making goal. And both times, the Bulldogs held fast.

Trailing by a goal entering the final frame, the Bulldogs scored three in the third period to win 3-2 on Friday, handing the Gophers just their second loss since early October.

Gabbie Hughes and Naomi Rogge scored less than two minutes apart for the Bulldogs 9-6-0 overall, (8-5-0 WCHA) to erase the Gophers’ 1-0 lead. Then, after Minnesota’s Amy Potomak tied the game, the Bulldogs answered 42 seconds later on an Elizabeth Giguere goal to take a lead they would not relinquish.

“In the third period we really got going, scored some timely goals, they came back, we went back at them and I loved the way we played at the end,” said Bulldogs coach Maura Crowell, praising the immediate answer to the Potomak equalizer. “That was huge. They were just about to get some momentum off of that, you could feel it in the building, and we quieted it quickly.”

Emma Soderberg had 29 saves for the Bulldogs, who clogged up the net front in the frantic final 90 seconds to beat their in-state archrivals for the second time this season.

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Coming off a win and a tie at top-ranked Wisconsin last weekend, the Gophers (13-5-1, 8-4-1) had guarded against a letdown and liked their play generally, save for allowing two back-door goals by the Bulldogs’ top line. The loss left them lamenting missed opportunities, especially after an apparent second period goal was waved off due to a Gophers penalty.

“It was a weird one tonight, in that second period. Two crossbars, a disallowed goal, a good goal and then the third period it felt like we were coasting home. That’s the disappointing part of it,” said Gophers coach Brad Frost. “This wasn’t a letdown game or anything like that. We were in control and then we weren’t.”

Both teams came prepared for run-and-gun hockey, but instead were treated to a defensive show. Gophers goalie Lauren Bench, making her third consecutive start, was solid when called upon, and the Gophers did a good job of crowding the slot in front of their goalie, limiting the Bulldogs’ looks at the net. The Gophers held the better of the offensive play in the first 40 minutes, but Soderberg kept them at bay for much of the time.

“I loved the way we just battled. We talk about how you have to weather the storm sometimes and it’s not easy. They’re a great team and you get stuck in your D zone,” Crowell said. “But I think for the most part we kept them out of grade A goal-scoring opportunities.”

The Gophers finally broke the scoreless deadlock just past the halfway point of regulation when a wrist shot by Catie Skaja from low on the goal line beat the UMD goalie up high. Minnesota pressured a tied Bulldogs team in the final two minutes of the second period and appeared ready to double the lead, but could not get another puck past Soderberg.

“All of us on the bench were like, ‘get that second one, get that second one.’ We were really pushing hard there, because they were gassed” said Gophers defender Madeline Wethington.

Bench finished with 19 saves.

Postgame comments from Minnesota Gophers coach Brad Frost and defender Madeline Wethington after a 3-2 loss to Minnesota Duluth on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021.

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Before the game, it was learned that Forest Lake, Minn., native Brieja Parent has left the Bulldogs program after a season and a half. The sophomore forward suited up in nine games a year ago, but had yet to dress in a game this season.

The series between the Bulldogs and Gophers concludes at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

UMD 3, Minnesota 2

Minnesota 0-1-1—2

UMD 0-0-3—3

First period — No scoring. Penalties — Mannon McMahon, UMD (tripping), 15:35.

Second period — 1. MIN, Catie Skaja 7 (Abigail Boreen, Madeline Wethington), 10:09. Penalties — McMahon, UMD (slashing), 2:07; Taylor Heise, MIN (interference), 2:16; Skaja, MIN (cross checking), 4:49; Boreen, MIN (tripping), 15:37; Maggie Flaherty, UMD (cross checking), 18:57.

Third period — 2. UMD, Gabbie Hughes 10 (Anna Klein), 2:59. 3. UMD, Naomi Rogge 7 (Clara Van Wieren), 4:36. 4. MIN, Amy Potomak 8 (Savanna Norcross, Emily Brown), 11:07. 5. UMD, Elizabeth Giguere 9 (Klein, Hughes), 11:49. Penalties — Taylor Stewart, UMD (interference), 7:56.

Shots on goal — MIN 12-10-9—31; UMD 7-9-6—22. Goalies — Lauren Bench, MIN (22 shots-19 saves); Emma Soderberg, UMD (31-29). Power plays — MIN 0-of-4, UMD 0-of-3. Referees — Denny Schult, Mike Kaehler. Linesmen — Aaron Neville, Glendon Seal. Att. — 1,711.

Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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