DURHAM, N.H. - Sara O'Toole recorded a goal and an assist and Johanna Ellison stopped 21 of 22 shots she faced to lift the fifth-ranked University of Minnesota Duluth to a 4-1 victory against fourth-ranked University of New Hampshire in Saturday afternoon's NCAA Women's Ice Hockey Championship quarterfinal game at the Whittemore Center.
UNH, which received NCAA automatic qualifier status by virtue of winning its fourth consecutive Hockey East tournament title, ends its season at 24-6-5. UMD, one of the five at-large invitees in the eight-team NCAA tourney, improved to 26-8-4 and will advance to the Frozen Four to defend its national title.
Following two scoreless periods of play, the visiting Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 2:49 of the third period. UNH goaltender Kayley Herman (Weyburn, Saskatchewan) stoned Haley Irwin from close range in the second minute, but UMD continued to pressure. O'Toole moved the puck from the left circle across the slot to Irwin, who was alone on the right side and deposited a shot into the open side of the net.
UNH's Sam Faber (Mt. Sinai, N.Y.) had a breakaway less than a minute later and was tripped by one of two backchecking Bulldog skaters and the Wildcats were awarded a penalty shot at 3:51. Faber then skated down the slot, deked, lost control of the puck as she pulled it to the right post and pushed the puck wide of the cage with Ellison guarding the post.
The Wildcats generated a flurry in the ninth minute in which Kacey Bellamy (Westfield, Mass.) blasted a shot from the inner-right circle through traffic that was stopped by Ellison. Then a shot from the left point by Maggie Joyce (Hudson, Ohio) was blocked by a defenseman. The rebound was collected by Faber at the left post but Ellison once again was in position to preserve the 1-0 lead.
The Bulldogs converted a 2-on-2 rush into a 2-0 lead at 10:08. Elin Holmlov carried the puck down the slot and her initial shot was blocked down by Herman, as was a second shot by Pernilla Winberg. The second rebound caromed to the right side, where Holmlov deposited the puck into the open right side of the cage. Myriam Trepanier, with the outlet pass, was credited with an assist.
New Hampshire went on its third power play of the game at 11:33 and converted that opportunity to trim the deficit to 2-1 at 11:59. Faber moved the puck from behind the net to Kelly Paton (Woodstock, Ontario) in the high slot. Paton slid a pas to the left circle for Courtney Birchard (Mississauga, Ontario), who blasted a screened shot into the net.
In the 14th minute, Julie Allen (Brampton, Ontario) and Angela Taylor (Paisley, Scotland) generated a breakaway. Allen advanced the puck from the neutral zone to spring Taylor, whose blast from the slot was turned away by Ellison's torso.
Less than a minute later, UMD's Holmlov snapped a shot from the left circle that ricocheted off the near post.
UNH went on its fourth power play at 14:24, and in the waning seconds Ellison made an acrobatic save to stop Taylor's rocket shot from the slot.
Minnesota Duluth extended its lead to 3-1 at 17:43. Herman stopped Heidi Pelttari's initial shot from the right doorstep, but Emmanuelle Blais poked the loose puck to the front of the net and the charging Tawni Mattila shoveled the puck into the open net.
The 'Cats were whistled for a penalty with 2:05 remaining and pulled Herman in favor of an extra skater with 45 seconds to play. UNH was able to cycle the puck in its offensive zone for a short while but O'Toole, with the assistance of Jocelyn Larocque and Winberg, secured the victory with an empty-net, power-play goal at 19:49.
UNH's Herman finished with 21 saves, including nine in the first period.
In a relatively quiet first period, UMD recorded a 9-4 shot advantage. One of its best scoring opportunities came in the 16th minute on a power play, but Herman foiled Holmlov's one-timer from the slot with her left leg pad. One of UNH's top scoring threats didn't actually produce a shot on goal. Birchard passed the puck from the defensive zone to Faber, who skated down the left wing and found Paton streaking down the opposite side. Paton curled behind the goal line and threw the puck to the top of the crease with the net open, but Jaime Rasmussen knocked it aside to end the threat.
Both teams recorded seven shots in the scoreless second stanza. In the opening minutes, UMD's Blais pushed a shot just wide of the cage from the right doorstep and UNH's Faber, on a breakaway down the right slot, wristed a close-range shot into Ellison.
In the ninth minute with UNH on the power play, Bellamy's shot from the high slot was redirected in front by Jenn Wakefield (Pickering, Ontario) but Ellison was in position to block it down.
At the end of that Bulldogs' penalty kill, they generated a 2-on-1 rush in which O'Toole was denied on her initial shot from the right circle and again off the rebound at the right doorstep.
In the 13th minute, O'Toole snapped a wrister from the high slot that was snared by Herman's glove.
In the closing minutes of the second period, UNH generated a 2-on-2 rush in which Faber's wrist shot from the slot sailed high and then Paton was denied by Ellison on a redirection and the rebound.
UNH entered the game with a 15-game winning streak and unbeaten in 17 games (14-0-3) at the Whittemore Center this season as part of a 30-game home unbeaten streak (26-0-4).
The end of the season marked the end of UNH Wildcat careers for the senior class of Bellamy, Faber, Joyce and Taylor; they are the winningest class in UNH history with 118 victories in four years. These skaters won the Hockey East regular-season and tournament titles all four years in Durham. They competed in the NCAA tourney all four years and advanced to the Frozen Four in 2006 and 2008.