Figuring out what went wrong for women’s hockey

UND goalie Shelby Amsley-Benzie celebrates in game. Photo by Nick Nelson/The Dakota Student.

While not without highlights, the Hawks’ season will be remembered for injuries and inconsistencies.

Another season is in the books for the UND women’s hockey team but is also another year that UND Coach Idalski and his squad did not win a title. Looking back there are many reasons why the Fighting Hawks are not in the NCAA tournament right now.

The Hawks battled adversity this season but fell short often when trying to sweep opponents in the second game of a series.

“Well I think our inconsistency,” Idalski said. “Probably our inability to consistently score hurt us the most as the season progressed.”

Even before the season began, the Fighting Hawks were staring down the barrel of a difficult year. UND dealt with a multitude of injuries to important players such as Shelby Amsley-Benzie. While fans never want to see players get hurt, this influx of injuries gave the freshmen of the team new opportunities to get real experience on the ice and contribute to the team.

“I thought our younger kids developed,” Idalski said. “It was unfair some situations we put them in when you have a couple out of the lineup. It accelerated the fact that some of those kids had to play bigger roles than you would normally want.”

The challenges that occurred during the season were magnified in the playoffs for UND as the stakes were higher than ever. Unfortunately for the Hawks, their downfall was because they could not generate scoring opportunities and were unable to play at the level of their opponents.

“Scoring would have been great,” Idalski said. “I just thought Minnesota played well. Shelby was terrific. We had some opportunities and we didn’t cash in on them.”

The University of North Dakota team played with high caliber competition such as Wisconsin and Minnesota all season and showed that they could win against said teams.

However, in the playoff setting, the struggles that plagued team came to fruition such as having a single line producing the majority of the team’s scoring.

“There were other opportunities earlier for us to get to that game,” Idalski said.  “Sometimes it’s a bounce here, bounce there. I thought we played well. I thought Minnesota got a couple bounces.”

With the season in the rear view, the big question now is how to prevent the early exit of playoffs next season.

“You kind of do a review of everything,” Idalski said.  “You sit down and look at how things went and what is going on with the players coming in.”

Rest is necessary for the team that goes all out all season to restore the body and mind.

“They take a little time off,” Idalski said.  “Then starting back after spring break, we start training heavy with all the returning players to get ready for next season and develop them strength and conditioning wise.”

The way the Hawks ended the season is disappointing, but saying goodbye to players can be an even harder task. While it is tough seeing any senior player graduate, the team has to say goodbye to Benzie, one of UND best goaltenders in school history. Her shoes will be tough to fill but someone has to do it.

“It’ll be a competition like there has been in the past for Shelby and Lexi,” Idalski said. “We’ll have the same kind of process next year where they’re going to play to be the starter down the stretch.”

Fresh off her redshirt season, freshman Kristen Campbell will compete with junior goalie Lexi Shaw for the coveted starter position. Shaw fell to back up goaltender after Amsley-Benzie proved to be the right choice for the job.

“We have faith in Lexi,” Idalski said.  “Lexi’s a good goaltender. At the end of the day, Shelby was better and grabbed that opportunity.”

The standard for hockey at UND is always that of excellence. And while the Fighting Hawks may have fallen a bit short of that standard, there is reason for hope in the next year.

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