MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. --- The University of North Dakota women's hockey team got off to a shaky start in the opening period at Ridder Arena tonight, as second-ranked Minnesota scored what proved to be the game-winner only 3:58 into the first period on its way to a 3-0 victory.
Freshman Jorid Dagfinrud (Sarpsborg, Norway) started in net for the Sioux making 35 saves and keeping the Sioux in the game until late. UND falls to 5-13-4 overall and 4-12-2-0 in the WCHA.
"I thought Jorid (Dagfinrud) did a great job again tonight keeping us in the game until we got our feet moving," head coach Brian Idalski said. "I thought defensively we didn't handle the stretch very well and the (defense) didn't handle their gaps very well early, but did a much better job as the game progressed."
Minnesota (18-3-4, 12-2-4-3 WCHA) grabbed the lead when Laura Mays forced a turnover near her own blue line, Kelly Lewis (Forest Lake, Minn.) attempted to pinch unsuccessfully while Candace Molle (Achorage, Alaska) lost an edge trying to transition back leading to a three-on-zero. Mays would finish the play herself with a backhanded goal, unassisted.
The Gophers looked like they were trying to put the Sioux away early as they tallied 11 shots before the Sioux put one on net almost nine minutes in.
"I thought in the first period we came out a little bit flat," Idalski said. "I think they came out with a lot of hop and were moving their feet. I think we were lucky to get out of that first only down by one. I think the second period we responded, started skating and it was pretty close from there on out."
The Sioux nearly tied the game on the power play as Terra Rasmussen was called for hooking at 9:52 leading to a great scoring opportunity as Noora Raty made an initial save but Wiebe found the rebound and went for the wrap around with an empty net but it was broken up at the last second.
The Gophers Killed the penalty but the Sioux seemed to settle into the game with next seven shots on goal.
At 19:14, Rasmussen was called for hooking again in the offensive zone giving the Sioux their second power play of the game.
The Gophers were able to kill the remaining 1:14 of the penalty to open the second period but shortly after Alyssa Wiebe (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) was able find linemate Holly Perkins (Soldotha, Alaska) on a stretch pass to free her on a breakaway attempt. Perkins deeked to her backhand but sent the backhand attempt just wide of the net.
Shortly after the Sioux had a two-on-one opportunity but the cross-crease pass took a roll on Loken who couldn't get a shot off for another failed scoring opportunity.
The Sioux continued with the momentum when Minnesota head coach Brad Frost decided to take his timeout at 10:44 of the second period. Only 18 seconds later the Sioux were called for their first penalty of the game as Cassandra Flanagan (Great Falls, Manitoba) was sent to the box for interference.
The Sioux were able to kill Flanagan's penalty and a succeeding penalty on Molle for checking in the second period to start the game killing both Gophers power plays. The Gophers converted seven power-plays in eight attempts in the series in Grand Forks.
"We focused on the penalty-kill and I thought we did a lot better job of that tonight then the last time we played," Idalski said. "We did a good job of moving our feet and I think the game could have gone either way. We really had our chances."
Margot Miller was called for checking to open the third period where the Gophers had their best attempt but failed to convert. Alyssa Wiebe ended the attempt with a short-hand breakaway but Raty made the save again.
The fourth attempt for the Gophers proved to be to much though as Sarah Erickson hammered home a rebound for a two goal lead half way through the final stanza.
Needing two goals with under three minutes to play Idalski pulled Dagfinrud. The Gophers took advantage with an empty-net goal from near center ice by Chelsey Jones at 2:10.
Dagfinrud would return in net and the score would hold for the remaining two minutes.
Raty would finish off her sixth shutout of the season making 18 saves.
The Sioux and Gophers will conclude the series at Ridder Arena tomorrow at 4:07 p.m.
"We can't focus on outcomes right now," Idalski said. "What we have to focus on is getting better every game, getting better every shift and period and think about how that carries over from game to game. I am happy with the effort and how we are competing. I think the outcomes we want will come with experience."