In a familiar rival battle against Minnesota, the UND women’s hockey team took on the No. 1 seed at a chance at claiming the Western Collegiate Hockey Association conference championship.
But North Dakota instead took second place in the WCHA Final-Face-Off this past weekend after defeating Wisconsin in the first semi-final, 1-0, and losing to the Gophers in the championship game by a score of 3-1.
Before its conference championship dreams were severed, North Dakota’s win over Wisconsin proved to create the momentum that pushed the team forward.
Shelby Amsley-Benzie saved 35 shots in the Friday victory as Meghan Dufault scored the only goal of the game.
“Obviously a fantastic game, exactly what we expected from a well-coached, well-disciplined Wisconsin team,” UND coach Brian Idalski said. “Those are fun to play for sure.”
Meghan Dufault also scored the game-winning goal in the series against Bemidji — collecting back-to-back game-winning goals for UND.
“It’s awesome, and it’s good for momentum coming through,” Dufault said. “We played solid defensively, and when we got the chance, buried. So it all started on the defensive end.”
Idalski said the team’s focus was fixed ahead.
“We are looking forward to just playing another hockey game,” he said. “That’s where we are; we’re on life support. We understand that. We are hungry.”
Despite getting the early lead on the Gophers in the championship game Saturday, UND wasn’t able to hold on to clinch a win.
The Gophers were able to rally back, even though UND had numerous chances to score throughout the game. With the win, the Gophers got both the WCHA championship and also the automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
North Dakota did not give up throughout the game and kept going until the score revealed a 3-1 margin at the end of the game.
Although a strong presence in the net kept UND in the running, the game did not end how North Dakota would have liked.
“Overall, I thought the team played really well in front of me again,” goaltender Shelby Amsley-Benzie said. “I’ll do my job, and I know they’ll be out there, and they’ll have my back and they’ll do their job. (Tonight) just not how we would have liked it to turn out.”
UND’s only way into the NCAA tournament was to win the game against the Gophers to get the automatic bid. North Dakota is not ranked high enough in the national rankings to be included in the top eight teams to mskr the tournament. UND has made it to the NCAA tournament the last two years.
“Of course it’s frustrating,” senior Michelle Karvinen said. “Even last year, like playing against Minnesota or even in the quarterfinal, it’s tough when we feel like we are the best teams in the whole country, and we kind of get cheated by the system over and over again. But you know, we also want to be the best there is so we need to win the games against Minnesota as well.”
North Dakota knew the game would be a hard one to win and gave it every ounce of energy the it had.
“No shame in the game,” Idalski said. “I thought we competed, played hard and gave ourselves an opportunity at the end with a bounce, so that’s the way it goes. Best of luck to Minnesota. They are champions for a reason. They played a terrific game.”
Mariah Holland is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]d.edu.