ERIE, Pa. — After 66 minutes and 38 seconds of 0-0 hockey Monday night at Erie Insurance Arena, Minnesota Duluth senior defenseman Ashton Bell had enough.
It was time to ring the bell on the scoreless marathon, and the Bulldogs’ captain did just that, literally ringing the puck in off the crossbar 6:39 into the overtime period to give fifth-seeded UMD a 1-0 overtime victory over fourth-seeded Colgate in the second of two NCAA quarterfinals played Monday.
Bell, scoring just her fourth goal of the season, intercepted a pass at the Bulldogs’ blue line, muscled her way past a Colgate defender in the neutral zone and unleashed the game-winning goal just before entering the slot to put UMD back in the NCAA Frozen Four for the first time in over a decade.
“It’s an incredible feeling. I have chills right now, still,” Bell said. “Getting coach her 100th win was a pretty special moment in the locker room for us. It’s pretty sweet.
“We haven’t been in the Frozen Four since 2010, so that’s pretty special. To get it with this group, we have a great group. We’re not finished yet.”
Great read by Ashton Bell to intercept the puck at the blue line then take it in and bury the shot to move Minnesota Duluth in the national semifinal. pic.twitter.com/iAqYiFYApf— Chris Dilks (@ChrisDilks) March 16, 2021
The Bulldogs advance to play top-seeded Northeastern in the national semifinals on Thursday in Erie. The Huskies cruised past Robert Morris 5-1 in the first quarterfinal on Monday. The other two Frozen Four participants will come from Tuesday’s quarterfinals featuring No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 7 Providence and No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 6 Boston College.
Thursday will be the Bulldogs' first appearance in the Frozen Four since beating Cornell in three overtimes for the NCAA championship in 2010 in Minneapolis. That was also the last time the Bulldogs won an NCAA tournament game after dropping a 2-1 quarterfinal at Wisconsin in 2011 and losing 1-0 to Minnesota at Amsoil Arena in 2017.
“What a great hockey game, from start to finish. Two really good teams duking it out,” said UMD coach Maura Crowell, who beat her alma mater Monday for her first NCAA tournament victory as head coach and 100th win as coach of the Bulldogs. “We carried some momentum from the third into OT, and what a finish. Nice to see our captain bury that goal, so clutch. Our team is thrilled. It’s a really special moment for our program.”
Bulldogs junior goaltender Emma Soderberg made 30 saves for her sixth shutout in 18 games this season. It was a bounce-back performance for the netminder from Jarved, Sweden, after she was pulled in the second period of a 7-2 UMD loss on March 6 to the Buckeyes in the WCHA Final Faceoff semifinals in Minneapolis.
“She had an incredible game,” Bell said. “We had a slow start, but she was ready to go right from the puck drop, and she kept us in there.”
The Bulldogs relied on Soderberg to keep Colgate off the scoreboard in the first period as UMD’s 23-player roster was dunked into its first NCAA tournament game ever. The Bulldogs were outshot 12-6 in the opening 20 minutes, only to outshoot the Raiders the rest of the way 24-18.
Despite turning the tide on possession, clean looks became increasingly difficult for UMD to come by as Colgate consistently threw sticks and bodies between the Bulldogs and freshman goaltender Kayle Osborne, who made 29 saves for the Raiders.
UMD’s game-winning goal was one of the few clean looks UMD got all night, which is why Bell said she didn’t want to take the chance for granted.
“They were really tough; they came out strong,” Bell said. “They clogged things up in the middle and made it difficult for us to get shots through. We just stuck with it and kept getting pucks to the net, and it worked out for us in the end.”
The Bulldogs — with the sixth-best scoring defense in the country, giving up an average of 1.76 goals per game — didn’t give the Raiders many chances, either, especially after the first period. Averaging 2.77 goals per game heading into the NCAA tournament, Raiders coach Greg Fargo said his team would have liked to generate more chances than they did.
Fargo said he didn’t expect Monday’s game to be the defensive battle that it was, and definitely didn’t foresee a 0-0 game after 60 minutes.
“Duluth did a great job defensively and were in our way most of the night,” Fargo said. “They certainly played a good game and made a great play in overtime to win it.”
Minnesota Duluth 0-0-0-1—1
1. UMD, Ashton Bell 4, 6:39.
Saves — Emma Soderberg, UMD, 12-7-8-3—30; Kayle Osborne, COL, 6-10-8-5—29.
Power plays — UMD 0-0; COL 0-1. Penalties — UMD 1-2; COL 0-0.