BY JIMMY GILLIGAN | The Statesman
On Sunday afternoon, the University of Minnesota Duluth women’s club hockey team won the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II National Championship. UMD won back-to-back double overtime games in the semifinals and finals to claim the title.
The Bulldogs (18-7-4) ousted Western Division rival Rainy River Community College (19-4-1) 2-1 in the title game. It was the third win for UMD over a Rainy River team that only lost four games all year.
After Laura Meillier scored in the first period, the Bulldogs led until Rainy River tied the game with 36 seconds left in regulation.
After a period of overtime, senior forward Katherine Johnson gave the women’s club hockey team their first national championship when she deked a defender and scored the game winning goal in the second overtime.
“It felt amazing to end it for my team,” Johnson said in an email. “They worked very hard all season to make it to the tournament and I wasn't around a lot this season due to being a busy senior, so it felt really good to end it that way for a team who truly deserved it.”
Johnson also scored the game winner in the semifinals against Northern Michigan.
She said beating Rainy River Community College to win the title meant a lot for her team.
“Rainy River have been our rivals since I joined the team my freshman year,” Johnson said. “Their head coach tried to get us disqualified the second day of the tournament because he was so afraid to play us. So to take home the title leaving them with second was absolutely huge.”
“You get into overtime and you say ‘ok we can do this we’re a strong team,’ and then you get into the second overtime and your legs are just dead,” Meillier said. “Everything felt so much harder than it was, (so) it’s pretty cool we were able to get through two overtimes with a win.”
Senior Colleen Jacoby, the lone goalie on UMD’s roster, allowed just six goals in five games at nationals and compiled a league leading .953 save percentage this season.
“I had so much adrenaline going I didn't even notice how tired I was until I was in the car on the way back,” Jacoby said.
For her efforts, Jacoby was named Most Valuable Player in the ACHA Division II National Tournament.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Jacoby said. “I still feel goosebumps. My team did everything to help me too, I mean Katie (Johnson) could have been called MVP too, (and) our defense played an amazing tournament. Each person on our team could be called MVP at different parts of the tournament."
“We would not have gotten near nationals without her,” Meillier said. “She always plays on her head for us.”
She held Rainy River Community College, a team that averaged 4.34 goals per game coming into the championship, scoreless for nearly sixty minutes.
“We knew that we could come out and beat them, but I don’t think anyone else did in our entire division, the league, in general,” Jacoby said. “Everyone thought that they were gonna come out and stomp us, but we knew we could do it.”
The win is the women’s club hockey team’s first championship, though they have been in the title game on two other occasions.
UMD lost the championship game in both 2007 and 2008, the latter of which was to Rainy River Community College.
Jacoby and forward Cady Walker were given All-Tournament First Team honors, while Laura Meillier and Sarah Jackson were named to the secons team.