BEMIDJI, Minn. -- Led by a shutout effort from goaltender Shelby Amsley-Benzie, the University of North Dakota women's hockey team defeated No. 2/3 Wisconsin, 1-0, on Friday evening to advance to the championship game of the 2014 WCHA Final Face-Off at the Sanford Center in Bemidji, Minn.
“Obviously, it was a fantastic game; it was exactly what we expected,” said head coach Brian Idalski. “Wisconsin is a well-coached and well-disciplined team. These games are fun to play for sure.”
Amsley-Benzie made 35 saves against the Badgers to seal the victory for North Dakota, recording her second shutout of the season.
North Dakota improves its record to 20-11-4 overall, marking the fourth-straight season that UND has reached the 20-wins plateau.
After a back-and-forth start to the game, Wisconsin generated several high-quality scoring chances in the first period. Amsley-Benzie stopped all 15 shots she saw in the opening period to keep the game scoreless, making saves on a Brittany Ammerman breakaway and on a backdoor opportunity by former Warroad high school teammate Karley Sylvester.
“This is playoffs; it is a do-or-die situation,” Amsley-Benzie said. “Overall this is the best game our team has played defensively. They helped a lot back there. It was just a solid team effort. I know if we lose, we are done, and I am not ready to be done.”
In the second period, Amsley-Benzie continued to shut down Wisconsin, who controlled play for the first 10 minutes. UND started to earn some scoring chances of its own, with the best being a breakaway by Michelle Karvinen, whose shot rang off the right post.
With only 3:14 left in the second period, Meghan Dufault scored to give North Dakota the 1-0 lead. Dufault’s original shot was deflected away, but she pounced on the rebound and buried it past Wisconsin goaltender Alex Rigsby. The goal was only the second scored by UND on Rigsby all season.
Amsley-Benzie continued her stellar play in the third period. The Badgers outshot UND 11-6 in the final frame, but she turned aside every shot to preserve the 1-0 lead.
A great defensive effort from North Dakota in the last minute of play also helped the team seal the victory. With Rigsby pulled for the extra attacker, UND prevented the Badgers from getting a good look on net and kept them from entering the zone for one last chance in the final seconds.
North Dakota will face the winner of tonight’s second semifinal game between Minnesota and Minnesota Duluth in the WCHA Final Face-Off championship game tomorrow at 7:07 p.m. (CT). The winner of that game will get an automatic bid into the 2014 NCAA tournament.