North Dakota junior Tori Williams carries the puck last weekend against Minnesota. Photo by Jennifer Friese/The Dakota Student.
A record-setting 5,835 fans packed into the Ralph Engelstad Arena on Friday evening to watch North Dakota take on Minnesota — breaking the old record of 3,200 set nearly 10 years ago.
But the fans witnessed a Gopher sweep, as Minnesota took the 5-1 win Friday night and a 3-1 victory Saturday night.
Despite UND’s two losses, the fans proved to be valuable assets.
“It was unbelievable,” UND coach Brian Idalski said. “I thought that was awesome. Unfortunately, we didn’t give them a whole lot to cheer about, but I thought just the anthem and the crowd and the band — it was outstanding it was really fun as far as that goes to have all those people there.
“It would be nice if they all came back for a game when we are full strength, because I think a lot of people would be super impressed with our ability with the full group.”
One of UND’s weaknesses over the weekend was its number of penalties each night. Minnesota scored two of its three goals Saturday night on the powerplay thanks to seven UND penalties.
Another sacrifice for North Dakota was the temporary loss of some of its players due to the Olympics coming up. Many younger players got a chance to skate and prove what they could do.
“Got a lot of kids and a lot of good minutes and I thought overall that’s a good development for us, for our younger kids and what we’re asking them to do this weekend,” Idalski said. “We didn’t pack it in, we didn’t sit back and we played like we normally play, and right now that just wasn’t good enough to play (Minnesota).”
The team hopes to look past the sweep and focus on its next opponent, the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs — using the past series as a learning tool.
“It’s never fun getting swept in your own barn … I think that we just have to work really hard the next few weeks and play gritty and be prepared,” UND defenseman Gracen Hirschy said, “Of course we’ve got a lot of work, we’ve got a few weeks to get prepared for playoffs and stuff like that, so I think it just comes down to the next few weeks.”
UND will be back on the road this weekend as it travels to Duluth to take on the Bulldogs. North Dakota claimed the edge in the first two meetings between the two teams earlier this season in Grand Forks — winning the first game in regulation and a shootout victory in the second game.
The games will start at 3:07 p.m. Saturday and Sunday afternoon in Duluth.
Mariah Holland is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]