Friday night North Dakota was physical right out the gate, fore-checking, intercepting passes, and generally exhibiting the physicality their program is known to possess. This set Minnesota back a little, as they were expecting something a little more passive, but driving the puck deep into the visitor’s zone and putting it on the net seemed to be the best solution. One such example was when Kate Schipper put the puck on goal from the left side, Lexie Shaw blocked the shot, but another Gopher caught the rebound and battled her at the crease. The play went under review, but was determined to be no goal. Then Megan Wolfe carried the puck up the right side, passed it to Caitlin Reilly in the right circle, and Reilly flipped it into the net as she flew the right side of the crease at 6:59. Lee Stecklein had the second assist.
The physicality continued for the rest of first period, though it never became truly rough. Patti Marshall shoved Hallie Theodosopoulos then a different Hawk knocked another Gopher down. Emma Nuutinen skated down center ice with Stecklein hot on her heels before she smooshed her body into Nuutinen’s back and eventually tapped the puck away to the boards, wrecking her scoring chance. Charly Dahlquist also shoved Schipper. Then late in the period Schipper had her arm up as she got in the opposition’s way, so that as she flew down the side the Hawk ran into Schipper’s elbow face first. This sent Schipper to the box for interference at 16:53, but Minnesota killed the penalty and they finished first period leading by a goal.
The Gophers made great attempts right out the gate, though collisions were also up second period. Cara Piazza downed Sarah Lecavalier then Reilly had an aerodynamic flip over Halli Krzyzaniak’s stick. Another collision with Dahlquist left Reily and an official down on the ice. Then Dahlquist hit Reilly in the head with her stick, which earned her a high sticking penalty at 7:34. Other than a bad turnover to Amy Menke that resulted in a break away and Sidney Peters making a save, the Gophers weren’t able to accomplish anything on that power play. However, they kept grinding away at their systems and thanks to a screen by Sarah Potomak, Katie Robinson’s shot from the right point went into the top left corner of the goal at 11:32. Schipper had the lone assist. Taylor Williamson took a holding penalty for hanging onto a Hawk and refusing to let go at 14:31. North Dakota displayed no real urgency on their power play and spent most of it in their own zone. Then as the period came to a close Theodosopoulos made a surprise long shot from above the right circle to score unassisted at 18:55.
It seemed like Theodosopoulos would score again third period when she got a loose puck just to the right of Minnesota’s crease, but Peters make two rapid saves to stop her. A lot more Gophers hit the ice this period without calls. Then after a mess at Minnesota’s crease, players from both sides started shoving and had to be separated. This resulted in Rebekah Kolstad and Kelly Pannek getting concurrent roughing penalties at 3:42. The 4-ono-4 play opened the ice, but did not increase scoring. Then the teams spent most of the period racing back and forth across the ice, trying to find the advantage, though Minnesota did seem to have the better chances.
At 17:50 Minnesota used their timeout after icing the puck. North Dakota pulled Shaw at 18:06 for the skater advantage and the Hawks buzzed around the Gophers’ zone. Eventually Pannek corralled the puck while on her knees, high between the circles, and facing her own net. According to one of the Gophers’ coaches, Pannek said, “watch this” before she poked the puck and sent it sliding all the way down center into the middle of the empty net at 18:25. Potomak assisted.
Then Reilly took a tripping penalty at 19:01, which caused North Dakota to immediately use their timeout. When the faceoff came it was 6-on-4 and because Minnesota’s skaters were told to assume they’d win this faceoff, multiple Hawks with the puck hit the crease. This allowed Kolstad to score at 19:05, assists going to Nuutinen and Ryleigh Houston. North Dakota’s net remained empty, so once Stecklein got Schipper the puck, she zipped up the right side, bypassing defenders, and scored a second empty net goal at 19:58. Thus Minnesota won 4-2.
Saturday saw stalwart Peters again in net, but North Dakota replaced Shaw with red shirted freshman goaltender Kristen Campbell. Otherwise North Dakota felt no need for significant adjustment, as they kept the same aggressive playing style for the afternoon game. They were in Minnesota’s zone immediately and a Hawk suddenly threw the puck on goal from the doorstep, which appeared to go in from the stands—it was a high shot while Peters was low, but no one reacted like it was a goal on the ice—but later video review confirmed Peters kept it out and then several more. After that initial blitz the Gophers were ready for the Hawks’ aggression and started making chaos in North Dakota’s zone. After Cara Piazza passed the puck to Schipper, she got it off the backboards to Williamson in the left circle, whereupon Williamson banged it home, top right side at 7:48.
The Hawks made another driving attack, which left Peters seated, but she made the save. Yesterday’s little hostilities continued without call, including Lecavalier knocking Robinson into the boards after they struggled with their sticks on open ice. Then Jordan Hampton and Nicole Schammel collided, which turned into Hampton and Reilly ready to do more than exchange words moments later after a whistle. Wolfe’s pass from the right circle to the left found Reilly and she immediately shot through traffic to score at 15:49. Stecklein had the second assists so that first period ended with the Gophers leading by two.
Shortly after second period started Williamson swooped past Campbell’s crease, shooting as she past. It initially looked like Campbell had stopped the shot, but it must have trickled through her pads because suddenly the goal horn was going off at 2:02, much to the goalie’s displeasure. Sydney Baldwin and Marshall had the assists. Minnesota continued hammering North Dakota and their persistence rewarded them. Schipper came up the left side then skated along the backboards before passing to Potomak, who scored with a shot from the slot at 3:35 despite Campbell dropping to the ice in an attempt to block. As the score was now 4-0 Minnesota, North Dakota used their timeout and when play resumed, they had relieved Campbell with Shaw between the pipes.
The Gophers kept buzzing, which caused multiple messes at Shaw’s crease. Sometimes the Hawks would carry the puck into Minnesota’s zone, but unlike the Gophers, they weren’t creating good scoring chances. Kolstad slammed Reilly head first into Shaw to keep her from assisting in a play without call. Then a Potomak shot just went wide. However Marissa Salo’s slashing was caught and she went to the box at 12:26. Minnesota employed some solid puck cycling, which eventually resulted in Piazza scoring from the right circle, assisted by Baldwin and Marshall, at 14:19. The period ended with the Hawks fighting off a last minute attack.
Minnesota continued making chances in to start the third period. The refs missed Abby Thiessen poking Schammel in the back, knocking her down—which allowed the puck to slide to another Hawk and be carried out of North Dakota’s zone—and then shoving her back down to the ice as soon as she was on her skates. Perhaps they missed the secondary shoving because they were busy catching Lindsay Agnew on tripping at 1:38. This time the Hawks made good use of their power play and Krzyzaniak’s scored with shot through traffic from the blue line at 2:17. Assists went to Menke and Houston.
Reilly had a perfect chance, but couldn’t move quite fast enough to drive the puck home and the play resulted in a mess at North Dakota’s crease. Another great Minnesota chance resulted in a hooking penalty on Anna Kilponen at 8:36. The Gophers were puck cycling, but not controlling rebound, which left them thrown out of the zone after every shot during the power play. Besides all of the assisted down, lot of players slipped during this game, especially during third period, and that created some interesting wipeouts. Then Paige Haley took a checking penalty at 15:43. Kilponen blasted the puck on goal from the middle of the blue line through traffic, though the closest Gopher to her was spinning on the ice, and scored at 16:37. The puck might have deflected off something on its way in, and the play was reviewed before declared good, but Hampton and Kayla Gardner got the assists.
Minnesota wasn’t about to leave two goals unanswered. So Reilly answered by flipping the puck into goal over Shaw from below the right circle after carrying it from the corner at 17:24. Piazza and Haley assisted. Schipper took a slashing penalty at 18:15, which left the Gophers on the penalty kill until the final buzzer sounded. With that Minnesota won 6-2, completing the North Dakota sweep.
Next week Minnesota renews the border battle with Wisconsin in their final regular season series. After that it’s on to the post season. This includes the WCHA Final Faceoff, which will be held at Ridder Arena on March 4th and 5th, and then presumably the Gophers will be off to the NCAA national tournament.