Kemp to be WCHA women’s commish

The WCHA will introduce Mercyhurst associate athletic director Aaron Kemp as its next commissioner on Wednesday, the Herald has learned.

Kemp has a strong hockey background, having served as an assistant coach for the Canisius men’s team and the Mercyhurst women’s team.

Kemp is a graduate of Canisius College.

He replaces Sara Martin, who retired at the end of last season. The WCHA will have new commissioners on both sides as Bill Robertson replaces Bruce McLeod on the men’s side.

UND women reach WCHA championship

It was deja vu for the UND women in the WCHA Final Faceoff.

It beat Wisconsin in the semifinals in a one-goal game thanks to a great performance by Shelby Amsley-Benzie and it will now head to the championship game for the second year in a row.

Amsley-Benzie stopped 35 shots in posting a 1-0 shutout win over the Badgers on Friday in Bemidji’s Sanford Center. Meghan Dufault scored the lone goal, forcing a turnover, launching a shot and finding the rebound.

That sets up a showdown between North Dakota and Minnesota for the WCHA championship for the second year in a row. That game will be played at 7 p.m. Saturday in Bemidji.

UND needs to win the game in order to get to the NCAA tournament.

Minnesota has lost only twice in its last 96 games — both times against UND. Earlier this season, UND split with the Gophers at Ridder Arena when the team was at full strength.

The Gophers swept UND in The Ralph when UND was missing its Olympians.

The Bemidji Pioneer’s Jack Hittinger covered the game for us. Check out his story here.

Friday morning reading

One of the most fun parts of this job is interviewing players in the second half of their senior year.

You start interviewing them after they commit, often times as 16- or 17-year olds. You get to know them a little bit once they get on campus as freshmen. But it isn’t until later in their careers where they really come out of their shells, become comfortable around the media and show their personality.

By the time their careers are winding down, they usually gain a great perspective on everything and they are very interesting to talk to.

This weekend is Senior Weekend at UND, and next weekend, they will play their final games in Ralph Engelstad Arena during the first round of the NCHC playoffs. I will catch up some of the seniors at that time.

But this week, I caught up with one senior on Western Michigan who people around here know well — former Sioux Mike Cichy.

Cichy was always a good quote even when he was back here, but it was good to catch up with him, and in true senior form, he seems to have a great perspective on everything. While we always focus on what’s happening on the ice, Cichy will become the first member of his family to earn a college degree — a significant accomplishment.

Read the full story on Cichy here.

Cichy has bounced from defensive lines to scoring lines this year, filling in wherever he is needed. Not sure where he will play this weekend.

There’s a lot on the line for both teams.

UND is playing for a chance to be the first winner of the Penrose Cup. With St. Cloud State playing at seventh-place Colorado College, UND may have to sweep in order to lift the Penrose.

Read a little bit of what the players are saying about the series here.

According to this USCHO story, it doesn’t sound like NCHC commish Josh Fenton knows exactly where he’s going to be at this weekend.

Western Michigan enters this series coming off of a 3-1 win over Denver — a contest that has Bronco coach Andy Murray confident heading into this weekend. He told the Kalamazoo Gazette that he sees some good signs.

I’ll be really curious to see how this series plays out.

The series in Kalamazoo was pretty much a toss-up both nights. If anything, the Broncos may have outplayed UND. But the two best players on the ice — both games — were Zane Gothberg and Rocco Grimaldi.

The series was pretty physical and I’d expect the same this weekend. Western Michigan may be the toughest team physically that UND plays against in the NCHC this season. It wasn’t easy for UND to get to the paint during last Saturday’s game against St. Cloud State, and that part probably won’t be any easier this weekend.

In the last three years, these teams have played three times. They have all been one-goal games if you take away empty-netters. UND has won all three.

On to this weekend’s picks….

St. Cloud State at Colorado College: Everyone will be keeping their eyes on this series. And yes, even though the Tigers are playing better as of late, I think that UND will need to sweep the Broncos to lift the Penrose. St. Cloud State sweep.

Omaha at Duluth: Forgotten in the Penrose race is that Omaha actually has a chance to get the Cup as well. The Mavs are only three points back of UND and SCSU. Armed with a 7-4 record in their last 11 games, they might just make this thing interesting. Omaha regulation win, Omaha shootout win.

Miami at Denver: The Pioneers are expected to get Joey LaLeggia back after he missed five games with an injury, but they will likely be without Quentin Shore and Josiah Didier. The return of Blake Coleman, meanwhile, has been a big factor for the RedHawks. Split.

Western Michigan at UND: I think we see two more close games this weekend. The difference last time was Gothberg and Grimaldi. The difference this time is Ralph Engelstad Arena. UND sweep.

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For the women, it’s now or never.

They know they need to win the WCHA Final Faceoff in order to make the NCAA tournament because of their 1-6-1 record in the month without the Olympians.

Here’s my preview for today’s semifinal game against the University of Wisconsin.

UND has played Wisconsin four times this season, and actually, has probably been the better team overall in those games. But the Badgers have arguably the top goaltender in the nation in Alex Rigsby.

UND has only scored one goal in two games against Rigsby, who is aided by a strong defensive system and defensive corps.

The Badgers are patient, wait for opponent mistakes and capitalize.

UND has struggled a bit offensively lately, so it might not be easy to get that cranked back up against a team like the Badgers. But the Olympians are all back and have had some time to get their body clocks on to a normal schedule.

The fact that UND only had to travel to Bemidji also helps.

It appears that the WCHA wants to start moving the Final Faceoff around. Today, the league commish told the Bemidji Pioneer that next year’s event will be in Grand Forks.

Eight of the last 10 WCHA Final Faceoffs have been at Ridder Arena.

Here’s a preview on the tournament from the Bemidji Pioneer.

That’s it for now. I’ll post if there are any updates this afternoon. Have a good one.

Karvinen leads UND honors

Four UND players were honored in the all-WCHA women’s awards, led by Michelle Karvinen’s first-team all-WCHA selection. Josefine Jakobsen was named third-team all-WCHA and Susanna Tapani and Gracen Hirschy earned all-rookie team honors.

First team

F — Michelle Karvinen, UND
F — Hannah Brandt, Minnesota
F — Kelly Terry, Minnesota
D — Milicia McMillen, Minnesota
D — Rachel Ramsey, Minnesota
G — Alex Rigsby, Wisconsin

Second team

F — Brittany Ammerman, Wisconsin
F — Sarah Davis, Minnesota
F — Rachael Bona, Minnesota
D — Courtney Burke, Wisconsin
D — Kari Schmitt, Ohio State
G — Amanda Leveille, Minnesota

Third team

F — Josefine Jakobsen, North Dakota
F — Jenna McParland, Minnesota Duluth
F — Blayre Turnbull, Wisconsin
D — Sara Schmitt, Ohio State
D — Lara Stalder, Minnesota Duluth
G — Danielle Butters, MSU-Mankato

Rookie team

F — Susanna Tapani, North Dakota
F — Dani Cameranesi, Minnesota
F — Sarah Nurse, Wisconsin
D — Gracen Hirschy, North Dakota
D — Lara Stalder, Minnesota Duluth
G — Ann-Renee Desbiens, Wisconsin
G — Brittni Mowat, Bemidji State

Player of the year — Hannah Brandt, Minnesota
Rookie of the year — Dani Cameranesi, Minnesota
Defensive player of the year — Rachel Ramsey, Minnesota
Coach of the year — Brad Frost, Minnesota

The Ralph to host 2015 Final Faceoff

Ralph Engelstad Arena will host the 2015 WCHA Final Faceoff women’s hockey tournament, the Bemidji Pioneer’s Jack Hittinger reported today.

The tournament will feature the four teams that advance out of the first-round series. UND has made it to the Final Faceoff four years in a row. It is currently being played in Bemidji.

Grand Forks has hosted it one other time about a decade ago. UND did not make it that time.

UND women reach Final Faceoff

The UND women took care of business this weekend, sweeping Bemidji State in the first round of the playoffs to reach the WCHA Final Faceoff for the fourth consecutive season.

On Saturday night, Meghan Dufault scored the overtime winner to clinch the trip to Bemidji.

UND will take on Wisconsin at 4:07 p.m. Friday in the Sanford Center. Minnesota will play Duluth in the late game.

UND has to win the tournament in order to make the NCAAs.

For the first time since the start of the year, UND went with the same goaltender on back-to-back nights. It appears that the team will go with Shelby Amsley-Benzie for the playoff run once again.

Amsley-Benzie was fantastic in the playoffs last season, leading UND to a win over Wisconsin in the Final Faceoff, and holding the top-ranked Gophers off the scoreboard for more than three periods in the NCAA regional.

More to come on the women later this week.

U.S. falls in heartbreaking fashion

Less than a minute away from gold, the U.S. allowed a game-tying goal, then lost the gold medal final in overtime, 3-2 to Canada on Thursday.

Marie Philip Poulin, who scored both goals of Canada’s 2-0 win in the finals four years ago, had both the game-tying goal and the game-winning goal to lift the Canadians to their fourth consecutive gold medal.

In what will surely be the most bitter of any Olympic loss for the U.S., they led 2-0 with less than four minutes to go. Canada got the first one on a shot that went off of a U.S. defenseman and in. Then, Poulin picked up a poke-check attempt from U.S. goalie Jesse Vetter and tied it.

In overtime, the Canadians scored on a four-on-three power play, setting up Poulin on the back door.

UND’s Jocelyne Lamoureux led the Olympics in assists with five. Monique Lamoureux finished third in goals with three. Warroad’s Gigi Marvin led Team USA in ice time.

Gold medal game arrives

In the summer of 2009, I talked to one prominent college hockey coach, trying to gauge whether the Lamoureux twins could make Team USA for the 2010 Vancouver Games.

The coach’s response?

“Yes.”

Why?

“They need them against Canada.”

The coach went on to explain that the Americans are talented enough to win against pretty much everyone, but that Canada brings a totally different challenge. Canada is tough, gritty and physical.

A lot of the American skill players cannot play that game. The Lamoureux twins can.

Needless to say, that coach was correct, and the Lamoureux twins did make Team USA in 2010.

That brings us to today. The Americans are once again competing for gold. If the game is not called tight, it will get physical. That’s what happened in the pool play game between the teams.

But surprisingly, the U.S. coaching staff played Monique Lamoureux just 12 minutes. Jocelyne played 15 minutes. They ranked eighth and ninth of 11 forwards in ice time in that game. If the game gets physical again, I don’t think we’ll see that again.

Although the twins haven’t seen as much ice time as they did in Vancouver, Monique leads the team in goals and Jocelyne leads the team in assists. And their line, along with former Wisconsin forward Meghan Duggan, could be a major key in today’s gold medal game.

A few key stats heading into today’s final:

  • Canada has not allowed an even-strength goal this tournament. It allowed one even-strength goal in the 2010 Games and none in the 2006 games. That’s remarkable.
  • The last time the U.S. scored an even-strength goal against Canada in the Olympics was in 1998 during pool play.
  • The Lamoureux twins have not been on the ice for a goal against this tournament.
  • Canada is expected to start Shannon Szabados in goal, the netminder who blanked the U.S. in the 2010 gold medal game. Charline Labonte was the goalie who beat the U.S. earlier this tournament, though.
  • The U.S. virtually only played nine forwards against Canada the first time around. They perhaps wore out. The U.S. got outshot 12-3 in the third and gave up all three goals in the third. Watch the ice time for Julie Chu and Lyndsey Fry, and watch to see if the U.S. wears down in the third again.
  • Canada’s Marie-Philip Poulin is the women’s version of Jonathan Toews. She scored both goals in Canada’s 2-0 win in the gold medal game in Vancouver. She is dominant on draws and could be key for Canada in this one again.
  • Warroad’s Gigi Marvin leads the team in ice time and shots on goal. She will become Warroad’s first two-time Olympic medal winner today.

U.S. to play for gold again

The Lamoureux twins, who have been working four years to get another shot at gold, will have it on Thursday morning.

Monique scored a goal, Jocelyne set it up, Warroad’s Gigi Marvin added an assist and the Americans easily beat Sweden 6-1.

Team USA outshot the Swedes 70-9 in the game, including a 29-1 margin in the first period.

Jocelyne Lamoureux joined her twin sister, Monique, in the USA Hockey Century Club as she tallied her 100th point in a USA jersey with her assist.

For a full story, see the Herald site here.

Women’s final: MSU-Mankato 2, UND 1

Senior Day for the UND women, aka, Kayla Berg day. She’s in the lineup. Lexie Shaw starts in goal.

First period

UND 1, MSU-Mankato 0 — Meghan Dufault (Layla Marvin, Josefine Jakobsen) 5:40. UND gets the puck to the crease area, where Marvin slips it past Butters, but the puck sits on the line. MSU tries to clear it, but Dufault finds it and knocks it in.

Second period

No scoring.

Third period

UND 1, MSU-Mankato 1 — Kari Lundberg (Lauren Barnes, Kathleen Rogan) 11:44 (pp). Early in the power play, Barnes holds the puck in the right circle and spots Lundberg wide open back door. Lundberg easily puts away the tying goal.

MSU-Mankato 2, UND 1 — Nicole Germaine (Tracy McCann, Anna-Maria Fiegert) 16:30. McCann goes wide on a UND defenseman and takes the puck hard to the net. When she gets there, there’s a collision and Shaw is moved out of position. Hirschy doesn’t see the puck at her feet and Germaine taps it in.

UND’s lines

25 Leah Jensen–63 Josefine Jakobsen–19 Meghan Dufault
15 Kayla Gardner–51 Becca Kohler–10 Andrea Dalen
11 Shannon Kaiser–55 Lisa Marvin–21 Amy Menke
9 Kayla Berg–14 Marissa Salo–13 Layla Marvin

16 Tori Williams–18 Halli Krzyzaniak
4 Sam LaShomb–6 Gracen Hirschy
5 Johanna Fallman–8 Samantha Hanson

29 Lexie Shaw
1 Shelby Amsley-Benzie
34 Annie Chipman

MSU-Mankato’s lines

15 Tracy McCann–18 Nicole Germaine–13 Kathleen Rogan
23 Melissa Klippenstein–26 Kari Lundberg–11 Natalie Stoltz
7 Kelsie Scott–5 Lauren Barnes–10 Katie Johnson
29 Casey Hirsch–3 Savannah Quandt

28 Dani Scholzen–12 Anna Fiegert
27 Shelby Moteyunas–9 Giulianna Pallotta
21 Haley Northcote–17 Elisabeth Hewett
19 Carina Randazzo

37 Danielle Butters
33 Erin Krichiver
30 Brianna Quade