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Women's hockey: UND tops BSU 4-1 in series opener

Wayne Nelson

GRAND FORKS — UND entered the first round of the WCHA postseason tournament in a funk, losing four straight games. In those four games, UND struggled offensively — scoring only four goals.

Gracen Hirschy, with the help of three returning Olympians, managed to pull UND out of that funk. Hirschy scored two goals and added an assist as UND downed BBSU 4-1 Friday night the opening round of the WCHA women’s playoffs at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

UND took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series and can advance to next week’s WCHA Final Face-Off with a win over the Beavers tonight.

“This gets us out of our funk,” said Hirschy, a freshman from Fort Wayne, Ind.

UND was solid in all phases as it outshot Bemidji 38-14.

“We needed this game in a bad way,” said UND coach Brian Idalski. “A lot of kids were gripping the stick. It’s been such a grind for us. Games have been so tight.”

But UND took control in the second period.

Bemidji’s Rachael Kelly scored a power-play goal at 10:30 of the first period.

Any tightness on UND’s part, however, was short-lived.

Hirschy tied the game at 1-1, scoring at 16:43 of the first — seconds after a UND power play expired.

Hirschy picked up the game-winner at 6:51 of the second, this time scoring on the power play.

From there, UND’s returning Olympians took over. Finnish Olympians Susanna Tapani and Michelle Karvinen scored goals 26 seconds apart in the third period to seal the win.

“That’s the first two-goal lead we’ve had in a long time,” said Idalski. “When we got that third goal, it was like, ‘Let’s play. This is fun.’ ”

Karvinen’s goal came when Leah Jensen feathered a backhand pass to Karvinen, who beat Bemidji goalie Brittni Mowat glove side.

The return of Karvinen, Tapani and German Olympian Tanja Eisenschmid gave UND a full lineup for the first time in roughly a month

“It was nice to have the group back,” said Idalski. “Everyone played well. We didn’t have any major breakdowns.”

Tapani put seven shots and goal while Karvinen shot five times.

Now, UND will try to close out the series against a team that has frustrated UND in the past. In late January, the teams skated to a 3-3 tie before UND won the series finale 2-1.

“We’re well aware Bemidji won’t go away,” said Idalski. “They’re well coached and they’re a tough group.”

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