MINNEAPOLIS – Positive imagery was stressed between overtime periods Sunday afternoon as Minnesota Duluth coach Shannon Miller hoped to energize her players.
UMD was locked in an intense confrontation with Cornell in the 2010 NCAA Division I women’s hockey championship game before 1,473 fans at Ridder Arena.
The title wasn’t decided until 33.6 seconds remained in a third overtime, making it the longest championship game in 11 years as an NCAA-sponsored sport. Almost two full games were played back-to-back.
Freshman winger Jessica Wong got her stick on a shot and tipped the puck at the crease through the legs of Cornell goalie Amanda Mazzotta for a 3-2 victory.
Time to throw the gloves in the air.
“Shannon told us to think about scoring the winning goal, and about throwing our gloves and sticks in the air, and hugging our goalie,” UMD senior center Saara Tuominen, who had two assists, said after completing a month in which she helped Finland win a bronze medal Feb. 25 in the 2010 Winter Olympics. “We were the underdog when the season started, but month by month we got better and this was a gift.
“This has been a busy month for me and it’s like a dream come true. This is the best way to go out as a senior.”
After more than 119 minutes, the Bullodogs had claimed a fifth NCAA title. A team which missed five players for the entire season because of the Winter Games, regained defenseman Jocelyne Larocque at midseason when cut the from Canadian team, and then was without Tuominen and defenseman Mariia Posa for a month while with Finland’s team, somehow came on in the last three months to go 19-1-1 the final 21 games, and win the last nine straight.
UMD tied Minnesota for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season title, beat Minnesota 3-2 for the WCHA playoff title at Ridder Arena, defeated Minnesota 3-2 in Friday’s NCAA semifinals 3-2, then faced first-time NCAA entrant Cornell (21-8-6) of Ithaca, N.Y. in the final.
“Some people might think Cornell is the Cinderella story here, but I beg to differ,” said coach Shannon Miller, who started UMD’s program. “I can’t believe how much better this team has gotten since January. They’re the most special team I’ve ever coached. They blew me away.”
The Bulldogs (31-8-2) needed some special players to lead the way – including senior right winger Emmanuelle Blais, named the Frozen Four MVP after being named the WCHA playoff MVP, and freshman goalie Jennifer Harss, along with forwards Tuominen and Laura Fridfinnson, and senior defensemen Jaime Rasmussen and Sarah Murray.
Cornell came into the final with a Division I-best 11-game win streak, including a 3-2 overtime against No. 1 Mercyhurst College in the semifinals. After a scoreless first period, the Big Red went up 1-0 with 6:16 left in the second period when senior winger Melanie Jue scored on a power play, just after a 5-on-3 advantage expired. It was 1-0 after two periods.
A power play carried over from the end of the second period and Blais needed just 18 seconds of the third period to tie the game. She drove on left wing, had a shot blocked by defenseman Lauriane Rougeau, got the puck back and ripped a shot by Mazzotta. It was her 32nd goal of the season and 73rd of her career for UMD’s scoring leader.
“We’ve had to come back in a lot of games this season and win [four] in overtime. We stayed calm,” said Blais.
When Rasmussen took a Tuominen pass and scored on a power play with 5:18 left in regulation, Blais admitted she thought the Bulldogs were going to win. But Cornell answered 1:48 later on Jue’s second goal, which followed a good Harss save. With 90 seconds left, UMD had a bunch of chances at the crease on a power play. There would be no more scoring for another three periods.
UMD freshman Audrey Cournoyer just missed on the doorstep 70 seconds into the first overtime. Wong missed a wide-open net at 4:29 of the second overtime. Wong crushed a shot off the crossbar with 7:00 left in the third overtime. UMD led in OT shots on goal 36-21.
“Adrenaline masks fatigue for a while, so you just stay hydrated, stay focused, keep doing what you’re doing, and keep battling,” said Cornell senior forward Liz Zorn. “Don’t let the mental side of the game get to you. Keep doing whatever you can out there.”
The Bulldogs did the same and got the positive imagery going, like holding up an NCAA trophy. Miller said she raised her arms a couple of times thinking the winning goal had been scored. The final play developed as Cornell’s Rougeau, called for tripping Fridfinnson, came out of the penalty box and was told to stay on the ice as Gray looked goalward. Rougeau did lift Gray’s stick momentarily, but the UMD player gathered herself in the high slot as Wong and Blais worked as a double-screen in front.
Wong said she was saying to herself “Tara just shoot the puck.” Her 15th goal of the season was the game winner.
Time to hug the goalie and hold up a trophy.
“I had the best year of my life and I played with a lot more confidence than I ever have. I knew that because of the players we were missing, I had to lead,” said Blais, who led Division I in goals and tied for the points lead with 65. “I always want more ice time, but I was ready for this game to be done.”
The previous long NCAA final was UMD beating Harvard 4-3 in double-overtime in 2003 at the DECC. UMD outshot Cornell 64-51 in the longest game in the history of both programs – four hours and 24 minutes.
UMD is 5-1 in NCAA title games, 11-2 in the Frozen Four and 15-4 in NCAA play.
First period – No scoring. Penalties – Tara Gray, UMD (checking), 3:13; Karlee Overguard, Cornell (tripping), 16:33.
Second period – 1. Cornell, Lauriane Rougeau 11 (Laura Fortino, Catherine White), 13:44 (pp). Penalties – Vanessa Thibault, UMD (roughing), 1:22; Rougeau, Cornell (tripping), 1:39; Laura Fridfinnson, UMD (hooking), 2:35; Amanda Young, Cornell (hooking), 7:04; Jessica Wong, UMD (cross checking), 11:23; Jocelyne Larocque, UMD (cross checking), 12:48; Kendice Ogilvie, Cornell (checking), 19:11.
Third period – 2. UMD, Emmanuelle Blais 32 (Saara Tuominen, Jaime Rasmussen), :18 (pp); 3. UMD, Rasmussen 8 (Tuominen, Audrey Cournoyer), 14:42 (PP; 4. Cornell, Melanie Jue 8 (Fortino, Karlee Overguard), 16:30. Penalties – Jue, Cornell (checking), 6:16; Laura Danforth, Cornell (roughing), 13:59; Danforth, Cornell (hooking), 16:42.
First overtime – No scoring. Penalties – Rasmussen, UMD (checking), 5:25; Chelsea Karpenko, Cornell (elbowing), 6:02.
Second overtime – No scoring. Penalties – None.
Third overtime – 5. UMD, Jessica Wong 15 (Tara Gray, Mariia Posa), 19:26. Penalty – Rougeau, Cornell (tripping), 17:20.
Shots on goal – Cornell 11-11-8-11-4-6–51, UMD 9-8-11-12-10-14—64. Goalies – Amanda Mazzotta (21-8-6), Cornell (64 shots-61 saves); Jennifer Harss (29-8-2), UMD (51 shots-49 saves). Power plays – Cornell 1-of-6; UMD 2-of-8. Referees – Derek Zuckerman, Dan Lick. Assistants – Kristine Langley, Alicia Hanrahan. A –1,473.