Gophers down UND in championshipMINNEAPOLIS — One day after the University of North Dakota women’s hockey team appeared to lock up an NCAA tournament spot, UND is back to scoreboard watching and hoping for help.
By: Tom Miller, Forum News Service
MINNEAPOLIS — One day after the University of North Dakota women’s hockey team appeared to lock up an NCAA tournament spot, UND is back to scoreboard watching and hoping for help.
Because of an upset in the Hockey East tournament semifinals, UND might still need a little assistance to qualify for the eight-team national tournament.
UND wasn’t able to land the automatic NCAA bid Saturday night as Minnesota ran its unbeaten streak to 46 games with a 2-0 victory in the WCHA Final Faceoff championship game at a sold-out Ridder Arena.
“Life on the bubble makes you anxious,” UND coach Brian Idalski said. “It’s out of our hands now and that’s never a great feeling, but I think we deserve another game.”
UND’s NCAA chances took an unexpected turn Saturday afternoon when Northeastern upset Boston College in the Hockey East semifinals. If Northeastern were to defeat Boston University at noon today in the conference championship, UND’s ability to make the NCAA tournament would take a major hit.
“I’ll be checking it out on the computer, maybe find a webcast,” Idalski said.
UND senior Monique Lamoureux said the players were aware of Northeastern’s victory and how that altered the national picture.
“With the Internet, there was no way the girls wouldn’t know going in,” Idalski said. “Northeastern put more pressure on us to win this one.”
In the postgame press conference, Idalski, Lamoureux and Michelle Karvinen each had to pause comments momentarily to fight back emotions when faced with questions about the possibility of the season being over and the program impact of this year’s senior class.
If UND does land an NCAA bid, North Dakota would likely return to Minnesota for a first-round game against the top-seeded Gophers, who are now 38-0-0 on the year after setting an NCAA record for wins in a season with the victory over UND.
“It is what it is,” Lamoureux said. “If this is my last game, this isn’t how I wanted it to end.”
Playing in the program’s first-ever conference championship game, UND (26-11-1) started strong by outshooting the Gophers 7-1 early in the first period.
Shots evened out near the end of the first period and the Gophers took off in the second. Minnesota used a power-play tip by Megan Bozek off an Amanda Kessel shot and a breakaway score by Maryanne Menefee to build a 2-0 lead.
That was enough for Gophers standout senior goalie Noora Raty, who entered the game with a 0.90 goals-against average.
UND pulled goalie Shelby Amsley-Benzie with 79 seconds left and North Dakota played the final 59 seconds of the game 6-on-4 after a Minnesota penalty. However, UND couldn’t solve tournament most valuable player Raty, who finished with 30 saves.
“I’m a huge Noora Raty fan,” Idalski said. “She was terrific again. She slams the door and rises to the occasion on every chance we get. I’ve only been around here 10 years, but that’s the most complete team I’ve seen.”
Amsley-Benzie was also solid in net, ending with 32 stops.
“That was a hard hockey game,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “You could tell North Dakota was playing desperate. They were playing well. We withstood their early pressure and obviously Noora was huge for us all night.”