The scene at the end of the Bulldogs’ series with the No.1 Minnesota Golden Gophers was much different than when the teams met in Western Collegiate Hockey Association Frozen Faceoff last season. No heads hung low on the UMD bench this time around. In fact, there were no players on the bench at all.
This time around, the bench was empty as the team charged goaltender Kayla Black after she made the final save to seal a shootout victory over rival Minnesota Saturday night. Forwards Meghan Huertas and Katerina Mrázová completed scoring attempts for the Bulldogs, while Black stopped three of four Gopher tries.
“I love it,” Huertas said. “It’s kind of nerve-wracking, but it’s so much fun. When Kayla (Black) makes those saves or we score, it’s just the greatest feeling.”
While the game is officially recorded as a tie, it was the first time the Bulldogs had defeated the Gophers in any capacity since the 2011-12 season when they took home a 4-2 victory.
“We got a lot of confidence out of that game,” senior captain Emma Stauber said. “Obviously last night didn’t go the way we wanted it to, even though we played very well. We had a little chip on our shoulders so that helped us tonight.”
While the Bulldogs played well by their own standards on Friday, they weren’t able to put the puck away and ended the night in a 3-0 loss. And while Minnesota’s Amanda Leveille ended up with the shootout, the Bulldogs’ netminder Black deserved just as much credit.
She made a number of big saves for her club — 35 in total — but her biggest save of the night came in the first period on a penalty shot. Minnesota’s Rachel Bona came in on Black, who made a right pad save to keep the score tied at zero.
“In my head I just have to think, ‘it’s just another shot,’” Black said. “You can’t control those things so I just have to be prepared for whatever comes at me.”
After two weekends of playing the league’s top competitors, UMD will be facing yet another impressive squad as they head to North Dakota this Friday. UND has given the Bulldogs trouble in the past and haven’t lost to a Bulldog team since the 2011-12 season.
But after seeing this weekend’s level of play, the team is happy with where they stand. Besides having good puck possession and playing well on the offensive end, the Bulldogs blocked 30 shots on Saturday night, something Stauber sees as a key to their success.
“We really set the bar high this weekend,” Stauber said. “We have to block shots and do the little things and that’s what we did tonight. Now hopefully we can keep building on the way we played this weekend.”
BY NICOLE BRODZIK