WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Minnesota rallies to top North Dakota, win third straight conference title
BEMIDJI -- Minnesota scored two power play goals in the second period and made those goals stand up as the Gophers defeated North Dakota 3-1 Saturday night in the championship game of the WCHA Final Faceoff women’s hockey tournament at the Sanford Center.
The Gophers held an advantage in territorial play and shots to the net but UND hung with them until Minnesota iced the victory with an open-net goal in the final 80 seconds.
Saturday’s loss ended UND’s season as North Dakota (20-12-4) is not expected to earn a bid to the national tournament. Minnesota (36-1-1) will learn its playoff position in a few days.
“I thought we played hard and gave ourselves an opportunity at the end with a bounce,” said UND coach Brian Idalski. “The power play was the difference in the game.”
UND held an edge early in the game as it controlled play in the Minnesota zone and fired three quality shots within the first five minutes. Becca Kohler had the initial opportunity 90 seconds into the action as she took a feed at the low left circle and zipped a shot that was stopped by Gopher goalie Amanda Leveille.
A few minutes later Suzanna Tapani blasted a slapper from the right circle but, once again, Leveille was in perfect position to shut the door on the opportunity.
Minnesota started to work its offense five minutes into the first period and kick-starting the attack was an interference penalty called on Kohler. The Gophers managed two shots with the player advantage and, more importantly, grabbed the momentum which carried through the rest of the period.
In the final seven minutes North Dakota goalie Shelby Amsley-Benzie had to be at the top of her game as the Gophers maintained control in the UND zone much of the time.
Minnesota defender Rachel Ramsey generated one of the better scoring chances when she skated coast to coast and dished a perfect feed to Sarah Davis who was stationed at the left circle. Davis wasted no time getting off her shot but Amsley-Benzie anticipated the play and kicked the puck out of harm’s way.
Amsley-Benzie made 12 saves in the period while Leveille stopped five shots.
The UND goalie was even busier in the second stanza as Minnesota peppered the North Dakota net with 19 shots, including two which found their mark.
UND opened the scoring three minutes into the period when Josefine Jakobsen swatted home the rebound of Michelle Karvinen’s shot from the point while UND was on the power play.
Midway through the period, however, UND was called for an interference penalty and the Gophers made North Dakota pay. Late in the power play Gopher Rachel Ramsey took a feed at the right point and her blast through a screen found a seam to Amsley-Benzie’s left.
With 6:26 to play in the period UND was tagged with another penalty and, once again, the Gophers were ready.
Less than a minute into the power play Minnesota worked the puck to Ramsey inside the blue line and the junior fired. This time the shot deflected off Hannah Brandt who was stationed outside the left crease and Amsley-Benzie had no chance.
“Our second period has been our Achilles Heel all year,” Idalski said. “Five-on-five I thought, for the most part, we did a decent job. It just turned into PP (power play) and PK (penalty kill) and they did a little better job.”
Minnesota took the 2-1 lead into the third period and would have quickly added to that cushion were it not for Amsley-Benzie. The sophomore from Warroad had the Gopher attackers talking to themselves as she continued to thwart their opportunities.
During the first six minutes of the stanza Amsley-Benzie stoned Davis from the right crease, Brandt from the same spot, Meghan Lorence from the left crease and Kate Schipper from the right circle.
North Dakota’s offense manufactured a handful of chances in the final 20 minutes but it couldn’t score the equalizer.
Early in the period Jakobsen’s shot from the top of the left circle bounced off traffic but Laveille was able to track the carom and with 11 minutes to play Laveille used her blocker to deny Tanja Eisenschmid’s shot from between the circles.
Despite the dominance the Gophers couldn’t shake UND until North Dakota pulled Amsley-Benzie in the final two minutes and Dani Cameranesi sent a shot from neutral ice into the open net.
Amsley-Benzie finished with 41 saves while Leveille stopped 20 shots.
Minnesota 0 2 1 - 3
UND 0 1 0 - 1
First period - No scoring
Second period - 1, UND, Jakobsen (Karvine, Eisenschmid) 2:45 PP. 2, Minn, Ramsey (Terry, Menefee) 10:48 PP. 3, Minn, Brandt (Ramsey, Cameranes) 14:12 PP
Third period - 4, Minn, Cameranesi (Bona) 18:44 ON
Shots - Minnesota 12-19-13-44; UND 5-6-10-21
Saves - Leveille (Minn) 20-21; Amsley-Benzie (UND) 41-43
Penalties/minutes: Minnesota 1-2; UND 3-6