MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. --- The University of North Dakota women's hockey became the first team this season to score three goals on undefeated and top-ranked Minnesota, but it wasn't enough as the Gophers powered its way to a 6-3 win Friday at Ridder Arena.
"That is a complete hockey club and we knew that going in," head coach Brian Idalski said. "It is not that often that we get beat 6-3 and I think we played well."
Amanda Kessel was all over the ice in the game finishing with a game-high four goals and one assist. Freshman Meghan Dufault (Winnipeg, Manitoba) led UND with a pair of goals and one assist.
UND flashed at times in the game but were either shut down on good scoring attempts by all-world goaltender Noora Raty or when she got in trouble the Gophers defensemen were there to clean up the mess.
North Dakota finished the game with a 35-25 advantage in shots, becoming the first team this season to outshoot the Gophers.
Eerily similar to last year's loss to Minnesota in the national tournament at Ridder Arena, the Gophers struck first and did so quickly.
Freshman Hannah Brandt beat a UND defender wide and crashed the net flipping the puck at the last second across the crease to Kessel who banged it in for the game's first goal only 24 seconds in. The goal came on Minnesota's first shot of the game.
"Raty was great but so were their defensemen," Idalski said. "Raty gave up a few second chances and we just got out-muscled and the d-core just kind of cleans it away. They are a solid team. Kessel and Brandt were super dynamic and pretty much finished 75-percent of the chances they had."
North Dakota nearly answered shortly after but Raty made an incredible save stoning a one-timer attempt by Jocelyne Lamoureux (Grand Forks, N.D.) and made a second save on a rebound attempt.
UND controlled the play for the next five minutes or so, building a 9-4 advantage in shots, but got nothing to show for it. The Gophers doubled its lead as Brandt collected her 20th of the season, sniping the glove-side corner from the slot at the 10:57 mark.
The second period got off to a good start for UND as it outshot Minnesota 7-2 in the first eight minutes, but it was an opportunistic play by the Gophers that pushed their lead to three. Kelly Terry carried the puck behind Dagfinrud who got caught up in traffic. Terry looked to center the puck from behind the net and it redirected off Dagfinrud and into the net.
UND had another golden scoring opportunity looking to answer as Raty gave up a big rebound and left the net wide open, but the Gophers defenders did not allow UND to get a shot off into the empty net and eventually cleared the puck out of trouble.
Minnesota entered the game with the nation's top power play, converting at nearly 36-percent, and on its second attempt of the game increased that percentage as Kessel sent a one-timer past Dagfinrud at 18:18 for her second goal of the game and send the home team into the intermission with a 4-0 lead.
Shelby Amsley-Benzie entered the game at the start of the third period for UND who was looking for a spark. Dagfinrud's night concluded with 13 saves on 17 shots while Amsley-Benzie would stop six-of-eight shots in relief.
Kessel collected her hat-trick goal at 3:21 of the third period, stealing the puck from a UND defender behind the net and quickly sliding it beneath Amsley-Benzie.
Michelle Karvinen (Rodovre, Denmark) broke Raty's shutout bid at 13:25 of the final stanza on a 5-on-3 power play. Dufault would add a pair of goals in the frame including a highlight-reel goal with only 11 seconds remaining as she split a pair of defenseman and the roofed a backhander over Raty.
"(Dufault) also had two goals in Grand Forks against the Gophers," Idalski said. "I like our club. We got some you kids that are coming along and getting better, but we are not a complete hockey club yet. I am encouraged with some of the things we are doing though and I still think we have some room for growth here down the stretch."
North Dakota will look to snap Minnesota's 29-game winning streak and salvage a series split tomorrow with an opening face-off set for 4:07 p.m.