Update: This story was updated following the Sacramento State-Northern Arizona game.
GRAND FORKS, N.D. – North Dakota came oh-so-close to landing its first-ever Big Sky Conference Tournament berth.
UND goalkeeper Catherine Klein tied the school record with 18 saves and her Northern Colorado counterpart Madeline Burdick answered with 11 stops as the Fighting Hawks and Bears battled to a scoreless draw in double-overtime today in the regular-season finale at Bronson Field.
A win would have locked up one of six tournament berths for UND. Instead, the Fighting Hawks (6-8-4, 4-5-1 BSC) needed to await the results of other league matches to learn their postseason fate. A tie between Northern Arizona and Sacramento State later in the day dashed UND's playoff homes, bringing to an abrupt end an incredible season of improvement.
The Sac State-NAU tie gave both schools 13 points, the same as North Dakota, but both held the tie-breaker over the Fighting Hawks.
UND finished the season with a 6-8-2 overall record after going 2-12-0 in 2016. The Fighting Hawks also won four Big Sky matches for the first time after going 1-9-0 a year ago.
“I’m so proud of everything they’ve done this year. It doesn’t matter what happens over the course of the next few hours, we feel like this has been a very successful year for the program," said UND Head Coach Chris Logan immediately after his team's tie with UNC.
"We couldn’t be prouder of the heart and desire the ladies have shown all year,” said Logan. “The steps we’ve taken forward this year have been way beyond our wildest imagination.”
Klein was a difference-maker today as she has been all season, tying Kristi Hestdalen’s 3-year old school record for single-game saves. Klein’s most spectacular save may have been a diving effort on a Brooke Braden penalty kick 16 minutes into the game. That stop was one of nine times she denied Braden, who led all players in shots on goal.
In all, the Bears fired 29 shot attempts with 18 of those finding their way on goal and turned aside by Klein, who logged her sixth shutout of the season.
“Today she was out of this world. It’s just incredible how good she is,” said Logan, who added that Klein’s status was doubtful during the week due to an injury. “Some of the saves she was making were just lights out. We’re so proud of her for fighting through a bit of adversity this week. She’s got a lot of grit and she’s got a big heart and she got in there and played her part for her teammates.”
The game was played in 30-degree temperatures with howling winds that often touched 30 miles per-hour. Both Klein and Logan said the elements never really factored into the outcome.
“It was cold and I definitely had to keep moving,” said Klein, “but other than that it was just like any other game. We’ve played in worse conditions.”
Added Logan: “They came out and they played their game. We’re up for any game and that’s been the case all season long. I don’t think the weather necessarily played a part; it’s kind of a North Dakota day and there’s something kind of sentimental about that for the seniors on Senior Day.”
The wind did minimize the number of scoring opportunities for whichever team happened to be facing it in a given half. In the first half, that was UND. The Fighting Hawks managed just one shot on goal in the first 45 minutes but upped that total to 10 in the second half.
“Northern Colorado did a good job of limiting our forwards chances, but we still had a few,” said Logan.
UND junior forward Katie Moller, the league’s top goal-scorer, had five of UND’s 11 shots on goal.
Now the Fighting Hawks will turn their attention to the Big Sky scoreboard, awaiting either a berth in the conference tournament or an abrupt end to the season. That the team is even on the brink of a postseason spot is meaningful one season removed from going 1-9 in league play and 2-14-2 overall.
“Even if we don’t make it in, it’s been unreal and just amazing,” said Klein following her shutout. “These seniors have done so much for us and this program, it’s amazing.”
Notes: Klein's six shutouts were a UND Division I record and the most since Eve Compton had seven in 2004 ... Moller scored a career-high 10 goals on the season, becoming just the sixth player in program history to reach double digits. It was the most since Rachael Loomis scored 11 in 2009.