Looking for consistency at the end of the year

The UND seniors pose for a picture during Senior Night this past weekend. Photo by Nick Nelson/The Dakota Student

UND women’s hockey team needs a sweep of Ohio State this weekend to move into WCHA top three.

Heading into the final leg of the regular season, UND looks to climb into the third spot in the WCHA before heading into first-round playoffs.

As rankings go, USA Today placed UND in the ninth spot, dropping one spot from the previous week. However, the Fighting Hawks managed to keep their impressive streak alive of holding a spot in the top 10 in the nation for the 19th consecutive week.

Looking back at a season of growth and development, for a team full of freshmen, UND made strides toward being a playoff contending team.

“Who we are now is who we’re going to be heading into the final stretch,” freshman Charly Dahlquist said.

The Fighting Hawks head to Columbus, Ohio, this weekend to battle it out with Ohio State, who has proven to be worthy opponents in previous seasons. Since the 2004-05 season, UND holds a 21-22-4 record when playing OSU, with a majority of wins coming in the more recent seasons.

When both teams met in November earlier this season, UND lost in game one, which ended a six-game win streak against the Buckeyes, but split the series after a game two win. 

This series is going to be extremely important because there is a chance for UND to finish in third place in the WCHA. UND first needs to achieve a sweep of OSU but also needs a bit of help from its main rival. Minnesota needs to sweep Bemidji State to allow the Hawks to gain ground in the standings.

“We’ll only succeed if everyone contributes,” Dahlquist said. “We cannot rely on a core few players. We have the potential to get deep into playoffs if everyone is willing to put in the extra work.”

Some of the core players Dahlquist references are point leader forwards Meghan Dufault and Becca Kohler, both of whom are playing their final regular season series as Fighting Hawks.

Consistency has been an issue for the Hawks this season, as one could argue they play to their opponents’ skill levels. They have defeated top teams such as Minnesota and Wisconsin, yet haven’t played with that same intensity against the basement of the WCHA.

“Changes need to be made mentally. We want to end the season on a good note by sweeping Ohio,” Dahlquist said. “We need to give the same respect to the last place team that we give to teams like Wisconsin and Minnesota, so we can start playing at a consistent level.”

Ultimately, the Fighting Hawks are guaranteed four more games with the series against Ohio State to finish off the regular season and a first round playoff series against either Minnesota-Duluth or St. Cloud State.

Of the potential teams to play in the first round, Duluth is the only team that UND has successfully swept this season. But as history shows, underdog teams have been able to stun UND. This is where consistency becomes crucial for survival.

North Dakota plays in its final games of the regular season this weekend, taking on Ohio State at 6:07 p.m. tonight and 3:07 p.m. Saturday in Columbus.

Allyson Bento is a sports writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]