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College women's hockey: Bulldogs bound for WCHA Final Face-off after sweep of St. Cloud State

For the second time in two seasons under coach Maura Crowell, Minnesota Duluth is heading back to the WCHA Final Face-off.

The third-seeded Bulldogs followed up Thursday's dominating 5-0 victory with another dominating performance this afternoon in Game 2, prevailing 6-2 to sweep St. Cloud State in the best-of-three WCHA quarterfinal series at Amsoil Arena.

Second-ranked UMD is the first of four teams to punch its ticket to the Final Face-off, which takes place next Saturday and Sunday at the University of Minnesota's Ridder Arena in Minneapolis. The Bulldogs' semifinal opponent is expected to be the host Gophers.

"We missed it our sophomore year and that one hurt a lot," said UMD captain Ashleigh Brykaliuk, who along with the rest of the senior class is making its third trip in four years to the WCHA semifinals. "Last year and this year definitely meant that much more, getting back there. This year is special too, but it's just a step along the way. We're excited heading into next weekend and ready to play some good hockey."

The Bulldogs were at the height of their dominance during the second period, turning a 1-1 tie into a 4-1 lead by the end of the period.

UMD outshot the Huskies 21-3 in the second. St. Cloud State didn't register its first shot on goal until 3:58 remained in the period. That shot on goal came on a power play.

"That's the way we want to play, that's the way we know we can play all the time," Crowell said. "That set the tone for the rest of the game."

Bulldogs sophomore goaltender Maddie Rooney, who finished with 23 saves, didn't face an even-strength shot from the Huskies until 1:22 remained in the second. She said she had no complaints.

"They make it pretty easy for me and it's fun to watch when the team is rolling like that," Rooney said. "As a goaltender, you just have to stay in it mentally. If it's dumped pucks, focus on that, if that's all you are going to get."

Freshman wing Sydney Brodt, junior center Katerina Mrazova and senior wing Lara Stalder scored for the Bulldogs in the second to break the game open. Brodt sniped the go-ahead goal top shelf from the left faceoff circle 1:22 into the period.

Mrazova popped in a shot from the end line as a Huskies penalty expired midway through the second and Stalder — a Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award top-10 finalist who also had two assists — used a give-and-go with junior defenseman Catherine Daoust to record her 22nd goal of the season and 53rd point in 32 games.

Stalder's goal was the culmination of sustained pressure and possession by the Bulldogs late in the period. Every player on the ice touched the puck prior to the goal as UMD weaved its way through the Huskies.

Senior center Katherine McGovern said the key to dominating possession that much is close support.

"We talked about layers being close and just helping each other out. If one person gets beat, we have another person there," McGovern said. "That was huge. All the lines were playing so consistent and backing each other up. That was good."

The Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead 11:30 into the game after Brykaliuk finished a feed from Stalder on a rush the Huskies couldn't keep up with. Senior wing Payge Pena tied the game at 15:29 of the first.

UMD junior wing Lynn Astrup scored her first goal of the season 12:32 into the third while senior center Demi Crossman scored into an empty net with less than three minutes to play for her fourth goal in three games.

St. Cloud State......................... 1-0-1—2

Minnesota Duluth.................... 1-3-2—6

First period — 1. UMD, Ashleigh Brykaliuk 17 (Lara Stalder, Jayln Elmes), 11:30; 2. SCSU, Payge Pena 6 (Kayla Friesen, Janna Haeg), 15:29.

Second period — 3. UMD, Sydney Brodt 8 (Maria Lindh, Katerina Mrazova), 1:22; 4. UMD, Mrazova 8 (Katherine McGovern, Stalder), 10:19; 5. UMD, Stalder 22 (Catherine Daoust, Brykaliuk), 13:11.

Third period — 6. UMD, Lynn Astrup 1 (Daoust, Michelle Lowenhielm), 12:32; 7. SCSU, Julie Tylke 12 (Lauren Hespenheide, Alyssa Erickson), 16:11 (ea); 8. UMD, Demi Crossman 7 (Brooklyn Schugel, Sidney Morin), 17:43 (en).

Saves — Janine Alder, SCSU, 9-18-x—27; Madeleine Dahl, SCSU, x-x-9—9; Maddie Rooney, UMD, 12-3-8—23.

Matt Wellens

College hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune covering the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs men's and women's teams, as well as the NCAA Division III programs at St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior.

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