Women’s final: UND 2, OSU 1, 3 OT

Notes: No lineup changes for UND. Ohio State makes a change in net, one of many changes for the Buckeyes.

First period

No scoring.

Second period

UND 1, Ohio State 0 — Samantha Hanson (Meghan Dufault) 9:03. Dufault wins a draw cleanly back to Hanson, who blasts a slap shot through a Jensen screen to give UND the first lead.

UND 1, Ohio State 1 — Kayla Sullivan (Danielle Gagne, Sara Schmitt) 19:23. UND gets outnumbered down low and Gagne feeds Sullivan for backdoor tap-in to tie the game.

Third period

No scoring.

Overtime

No scoring.

Second overtime

No scoring.

Third overtime

UND 2, Ohio State 1 — Amy Menke (Meghan Dufault, Becca Kohler) 3:17. UND punches its ticket to the Final Faceoff with a two-on-one goal in transition. Dufault, coming up the left side, feeds Menke, who buries it to end the second-longest game in program history.

UND’s lines

51 Becca Kohler–19 Meghan Dufault–21 Amy Menke
10 Andrea Dalen–63 Josefine Jakobsen–25 Leah Jensen
15 Kayla Gardner–11 Shannon Kaiser–13 Layla Marvin
16 Tori Williams–14 Marissa Salo–4 Sam LaShomb

6 Gracen Hirschy–18 Halli Krzyzanaiak
22 Tanja Eisenschmid–8 Samantha Hanson
5 Johanna Fallman–7 Jordan Hampton

1 Shelby Amsley-Benzie
29 Lexie Shaw
34 Annie Chipman

Ohio State’s lines

18 Julianna Iafallo–6 Taylor Kuehl–19 Danielle Gagne
24 Claudia Kepler–27 Lauren Spring–17 Julia McKinnon
26 Kendall Curtis–7 Kayla Sullivan–16 Melani Moylan
9 Bryanna Neuwald–13 Jessica Dunne–14 Maggie Rothgery

22 Sara Schmitt–2 Cara Zubko
10 Kara Gust–21 Alexa Ranahan
20 Kari Schmitt–8 Dani Sadek

32 Kassidy Sauve
39 Stacy Danczak
35 Selena Hunter

Women’s final: UND 5, Ohio St. 2

Notes: UND goes with the same lines as it has been using.

First period

UND 1, Ohio State 0 — Josefine Jakobsen (Tanja Eisenschmid) 2:36. UND gets on the board on its first shot of the game. Jakobsen comes on a rush up the left side and wires a shot past Danczak on the far side from the circle.

Second period

UND 1, Ohio State 1 — Kari Schmitt (Kayla Sullivan) 10:02 (pp). UND’s shutout streak ends at 297:51 when Schmitt’s shot from the point bounces on the ice and kicks over Amsley-Benzie’s pad for a power-play goal.

Ohio State 2, UND 1 — Sara Schmitt (Danielle Gagne, Kari Schmitt) 13:34 (pp). The Buckeyes cash in on the power play again as Dufault’s clearing attempt is intercepted at the point by Kari Schmitt. She puts the puck into the scoring area and her sister puts a rebound past Amsley-Benzie.

Ohio State 2, UND 2 — Andrea Dalen (Kayla Gardner, Tanja Eisenschmid) 19:54. UND ties the game with just 5.5 seconds left in the second period. Gardner comes on a rush up the left side and throws a pass to the slot area, where it gets through Schmitt and comes to Dalen. The captain hammers a shot off of the goalie’s shoulder and in.

Third period

UND 3, Ohio State 2 — Andrea Dalen (Samantha Hanson) 8:54. Hanson ends a strong shift by getting the puck at the point and firing it toward the slot. It deflects off of a Buckeye defenseman to Dalen, who quickly snipes a backhand before Danczak can get over.

UND 4, Ohio State 2 — Meghan Dufault (Amy Menke) 18:51 (en). Menke fights off a couple of checks and gets the puck to Dufault for the empty-netter.

UND 5, Ohio State 2 — Andrea Dalen (Halli Krzyzaniak) 19:33 (en). Dalen finishes off the hat trick by firing one into the empty net from the circle.

UND’s lines

51 Becca Kohler–19 Meghan Dufault–21 Amy Menke
10 Andrea Dalen–63 Josefine Jakobsen–25 Leah Jensen
15 Kayla Gardner–11 Shannon Kaiser–13 Layla Marvin
16 Tori Williams–14 Marissa Salo–4 Sam LaShomb

6 Gracen Hirschy–18 Halli Krzyzaniak
22 Tanja Eisenschmid–8 Samantha Hanson
5 Johanna Fallman–7 Jordan Hampton

1 Shelby Amsley-Benzie
29 Lexie Shaw
34 Annie Chipman

Ohio State’s lines

7 Kayla Sullivan–6 Tahylor Kuehl–19 Danielle Gagne
24 Claudia Kepler–27 Lauren Spring–17 Julia McKinnon
18 Julianna Iafallo–26 Kendall Curtis–16 Melani Moylan
9 Bryanna Neuwald–23 Katie Matheny–14 Maggie Rothgery

22 Sara Schmitt–13 Jessica Dunne
10 Kara Gust–21 Alexa Ranahan
20 Kari Schmitt–8 Dani Sadek

39 Stacy Danczak
32 Kassidy Sauve
35 Selena Hunter

Friday morning reading

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — That’s really nice that it has warmed up to 13 degrees in Grand Forks. Because it’s currently -14 here in the Zoo.

Sorry Bronco fans, we brought the weather with us.

UND flew to Kalamazoo on Thursday morning and held a practice at Lawson Ice Arena during the afternoon. Sources say that Dave Hakstol actually scored a shootout goal this week on Zane McIntyre.

And former Kalamazoo Wing Brad Berry won the shootout in the town he spent six years as a player and where he started his coaching career. Seems fitting.

It’s not the same arena where the K-Wings play, though. That venue is currently being occupied by the U.S. Curling Nationals. They are down to the semifinals now. Former UND student Joe Polo is among the semifinalists.

It’s a busy week in town and it has been a busy week for the NCHC. The league office made a pair of suspensions this week — one on UND’s last opponent and one on UND’s next opponent.

NCHC commish Josh Fenton took some time out to answer some questions facing the league, including Arizona State, the officiating program, full cost of attendance stipends and first-round travel. Read his answers here.

NCHC assistant commissioner Joe Novak is expected to be on hand for this weekend’s UND-WMU series in Lawson Ice Arena.

WMU officials say that Friday’s game is a near sellout and that they are selling just standing-room only tickets for Saturday’s game. Western Michigan coach Andy Murray hopes a revved up crowd is an advantage for the Broncos.

Although Western is out of the race for the Penrose Cup, the team is keeping its hopes high as it heads down the stretch.

What are the keys to this series?

1. Goaltending. That’s always the case, but I think it’s an extra interesting matchup this weekend. Zane McIntyre stole two games here last season. If you recall, Western outshot UND fairly handily both nights, but Zane was the difference both times.

I thought that Western had the best 1-2 punch in goal in the NCHC coming into the season, but both guys have been up-and-down. Lukas Hafner’s stumble in the outdoor game re-opened the door for Frank Slubowski, who made his first start in three months last week. Whoever plays this weekend, the Broncos need a good performance.

2. Handling physicality. The Broncos were the most physical team in the NCHC last season and I thought it caught some teams off guard. I don’t think UND has any problem with playing that style of game, which is good, because it will need to this weekend. Western won’t be quite as physical Friday night without suspended 6-foot-5, 250-pound Mike McKee, but I’d expect to see Josh Pitt back in the lineup with McKee out.

3. Staying out of the box. Western’s power play has been potent this year, ranking fifth in the nation and first in the NCHC. Nolan LaPorte, the team’s top power-play point producer, did not play last weekend but practiced this week. Junior defenseman Kenney Morrison is believed to be one of the most coveted NHL free agents on the market. He’s an offensive specialist.

4. Find a difference-maker. There wasn’t much time and space last time these teams played in Lawson. Rocco Grimaldi created a lot of it, though. He was the best player on the ice and was a huge difference-maker in that series. He’s gone. UND needs to find another one, whether it’s one of the Schmaltz’s, Paul LaDue, Drake Caggiula or Michael Parks.

On to the picks….

Minnesota Duluth at Miami: Should be a great matchup between arguably the two best groups of forwards in the league. Duluth has won four of the last five. Miami is on a five-game unbeaten streak. Miami 4-2, Duluth 5-4.

Omaha at St. Cloud State: Omaha wants to avoid another late-season meltdown, and at this point, it doesn’t appear to be coming. The Mavs appear solid in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011. But I keep waiting for St. Cloud State to make its push. Maybe it starts this weekend. St. Cloud State 4-3, 3-3 tie.

Denver vs. Colorado College: The Tigers have been outscored 11-1 by their rivals this season. There’s not much left to play for but the Gold Pan. Unfortunately for the Tigers, it won’t be staying in the Springs this year. Denver 4-0, 2-1.

UND at Western Michigan: UND’s last three road trips have ended in splits. But I sense that this is a team that wants to make its late-season push. I think both games will be tight, low-scoring affairs. UND 3-2, 2-2 tie.

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Back in Grand Forks, the UND women’s team finishes its regular season against last-place Minnesota State-Mankato.

All it’s going to take is a single point for UND to clinch home ice for a fifth consecutive season. One victory will be enough to secure third place as well. Two wins would secure a 20-win season.

UND has started to monitor the Pairwise Rankings ever-so-slightly and this team could shockingly make a run all the way to the NCAA tournament.

How did this team go from 4-7-1 to this point? Here are the top five reasons.

We may not know UND’s first-round opponent until Sunday, as four of the eight WCHA teams conclude play on Sunday afternoon. One key series to watch is Ohio State and Minnesota Duluth.

Lamoureux make Team USA

Both Lamoureux twins have made Team USA for the upcoming Women’s World Championship.

Jocelyne, who missed some Team USA activities over the winter due to surgery recovery, is on the roster as a forward. Monique, who has moved to the blue line since the 2014 Sochi Games, will continue playing defense.

The World Championships will be played March 28 to April 4 in Malmo, Sweden.

Other 2014 Olympians on the WWC roster include forwards Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker, Kendall Coyne and Alex Carpenter, defensemen Lee Stecklein, Anne Schleper, Michelle Picard and Kacey Bellamy, and goaltenders Jesse Vetter and Molly Schaus.

Friday night rewind

UND became just the fourth team to beat Minnesota in the last 120 games on Friday night with a surprising 3-0 win. It was a remarkable turnaround from the last meeting between the teams this season, in which Minnesota outshot UND 51-7 and won 5-0. Stories:

Herald – UND upsets No. 2 Minnesota in front of nearly 5,000 fans

Herald – Amsley-Benzie lifting UND to next level

UNDsports.com – Fans Pack the Ralph to see UND upset win

Other notes:

  • UND’s last win in The Ralph against the Gophers came on Dec. 3, 2011, also by a 3-0 score. That’s also the last time Minnesota has lost a game by three goals.
  • UND played the game it needed to a T. It wasn’t run-and-gun. They didn’t get into exchanging opportunities up and down the ice. They really limited Minnesota’s scoring chances. And when the Gophers did get looks, Shelby Amsley-Benzie was fantastic.
  • Amsley-Benzie has allowed nine goals in her last 11 starts and five in her last eight.
  • Amy Menke continues to score at a torrid pace, especially at home. She has eight goals 16 points in the last nine home games. Menke is now the team’s leading goal scorer.
  • Minnesota has dropped seven games since November 2011. The losses have been to Clarkson, Bemidji State (Minnesota not at full strength), Duluth, North Dakota, North Dakota, North Dakota and North Dakota. Yes, UND has had more success against Minnesota than anybody lately.
  • Gopher coach Brad Frost said: “They blocked a ton of shots. They made it difficult to get to the net and they deserved the three points tonight. All five players on the ice are looking to block shots. They are very good at it. They are big and they get in the way. They clogged up the net front real well.”
  • Frost also said he thinks Minnesota needs to compete better in the series finale. “We need our compete level to go up. They played desperate. We didn’t. We need to be significantly better if we’re going to come away with a split.”

Women’s final: UND 3, Minnesota 0

Tickets are $1 for tonight’s game. No surprises in the lineup.

First period

No scoring.

Second period

UND 1, Minnesota 0 — Amy Menke (Tanja Eisenschmid) 16:44 (sh). Menke skates on a breakaway with some back pressure from Minnesota but gets enough space to snipe one over the glove of Leveille for a shorthanded goal. It’s the first shorthander allowed by Minnesota this season.

UND 2, Minnesota 0 — Josefine Jakobsen 18:13. UND has a three-on-two rush. Hanson drives the net to create traffic and Jakobsen cuts from the right wing all the way across the slot and buries it.

Third period

UND 3, Minnesota 0 — Amy Menke 19:53 (en). Menke wins a battle at the line, skates it to the line and fires it into an empty net.

UND’s lines

51 Becca Kohler–19 Meghan Dufault–21 Amy Menke
10 Andrea Dalen–63 Josefine Jakobsen–25 Leah Jensen
15 Kayla Gardner–11 Shannon Kaiser–13 Layla Marvin
16 Tori Williams–14 Marissa Salo–4 Sam LaShomb

6 Gracen Hirschy–18 Halli Krzyzaniak
22 Tanja Eisenschmid–8 Samantha Hanson
5 Johanna Fallman–7 Jordan Hampton

1 Shelby Amsley-Benzie
29 Lexie Shaw
34 Annie Chipman

Minnesota’s lines

14 Maryanne Menefee–22 Hannah Brandt–21 Dani Cameranesi
20 Meghan Lorence–19 Kelly Pannek–7 Rachel Bona
6 Kate Schipper–10 Cara Piazza–18 Brook Garzone
27 Nina Rodgers

5 Rachel Ramsey–9 Sydney Baldwin
2 Lee Stecklein–13 Milicia McMillen
11 Kelsey Cline–12 Megan Wolfe

29 Amanda Leveille
37 Sidney Peters
31 Shyler Sletta

Friday morning reading

The UND men have the weekend off. It’s their final weekend off of the season.

But there still is a big series brewing in Grand Forks.

The UND women are hosting Minnesota at 7:07 tonight in Ralph Engelstad Arena and tickets are being sold for just $1. The cheap tickets are part of the effort to break the single-game attendance record of 5,835, set a year ago.

I wrote a preview on the series here.

It took UND a little while to get going this season, but thanks to a stingy defense and goaltender Shelby Amsley-Benzie, it has firm control of its own destiny in the chase for home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

If UND sweeps the WCHA’s worst two teams — St. Cloud State and MSU-Mankato — to close the season, it will have home ice, regardless of what happens this weekend.

Even so, you can bet that UND would like to grab a win against its rival and put some doubt in Minnesota’s mind in case the two meet up in the WCHA tournament (which also will be played at The Ralph).

Amsley-Benzie, who will set nearly every single-season goaltending record in program history this season, has been especially good as of late. Since Thanksgiving, she is 8-1-1 with a .966 save percentage and a 0.89 goals-against average.

She has a personal eight-game unbeaten streak (7-0-1) heading into this series against Minnesota and Amsley-Benzie leads the nation with a .949 save percentage.

Obviously, this will be UND’s toughest test to date.

Minnesota is on a 19-game unbeaten streak, and while it doesn’t have Amanda Kessel throwing up 100 points, the Gophers are extremely deep. Seven players are in double digits in goals.

And with three Olympic-caliber defensemen (Rachel Ramsey, Lee Stecklein, Milicia McMillen), they can generate offense from the back end as well as make it difficult to get good shots on Amanda Leveille (.943, 1.22).

So, can UND win a game this weekend?

It won’t be easy, but yes, when you have a hot goaltender with the potential to steal a game, there is that chance. Minnesota obviously has more skill, so UND will not want to get in a run-and-gun game with the Gophers. UND will have to do a good job of converting scoring chances and any potential power plays.

*******************************************************

On the men’s side, it’s a very quiet weekend in the NCHC.

Northern Michigan heads to Minnesota Duluth for the league’s final nonconference action of the regular season, while Denver plays Colorado College in a single game tonight (CBS Sports) and Miami plays Western Michigan in a single game at Soldier Field on Saturday afternoon.

My quick picks…

Northern Michigan at Minnesota Duluth: The Wildcats are without goalie Mathias Dahlstrom, who is their clear-cut starter. That doesn’t bode well against a Bulldog team that’s very dynamic up front. Bulldogs 4-1, 5-3.

Denver at Colorado College: The Pioneers can put themselves in the driver’s seat for the Gold Pan with a win tonight. Denver routed the Tigers 8-1 in the first meeting. While CC is bound to be better, I can’t see them winning this one. Denver 2-0.

Western Michigan vs. Miami: The Broncos had Miami’s number last season, going 4-0 against the RedHawks. The tables have started to turn as Miami is 2-0-1 against Western Michigan this season. I think an outdoor game on potentially bad ice tips the scales in favor of the Broncos, who don’t rely on their slick playmaking as much as the RedHawks. Western Michigan 3-2.

Friday night rewind

UND moved into second place in the NCHC standings with a win over Colorado College in front of a sold-out crowd in Ralph Engelstad Arena. Game stories:

Herald – Another shorthander gives UND victory

Herald – CC shows depth of NCHC

UNDsports.com – McIntyre stops 30 in UND win

Other notes:

  • UND moved up to No. 3 in the Pairwise Rankings. One more win tonight would put UND in a strong position for the stretch run.
  • Goalie Zane McIntyre was once again outstanding. He stopped 30 of 31 shots. Only allowed a deflection. Made huge saves in the third period through traffic. He has now allowed just 4 goals in the last 4 games.
  • UND is trying to go 4-0 against Colorado College in the regular season for the first time since 1988-89.
  • UND now has nine shorthanded goals, halfway to the school record. The Hrkac Circus tallied 18 in 1986-87.
  • Michael Parks took over the team lead in scoring with a goal and an assist, surpassing Drake Caggiula.
  • Caggiula got the entire building buzzing with his dangle of Garrett Cecere, putting the puck between the defenders legs and nearly burying one five-hole. Caggiula has put the Tigers on the highlight reel a few times before — one of them a similar goal.
  • Did you notice between-the-benches camera man Marv Leier taking a puck to the helmet? Leier has worn a helmet for years, but says this is the first time he took a puck to the head. The puck also broke the camera’s viewfinder. Leier said one other time he had a viewfinder break. Also, big props to Leier for rocking Dave Starman’s Macon Whoopie jersey.
  • UND only ended up getting one power-play chance after getting a ton of them in Colorado Springs. I’m guessing that the second power-play unit is going to be broken up very soon.
  • Colorado College was significantly better than it was in October in the Springs.

Behind the scenes of Miller’s ousting

The big story in women’s college hockey last week was the ousting of Minnesota Duluth coach Shannon Miller, whose contract will not be renewed at the end of the season.

That ends her 16-year tenure at the school, where she won five national championships.

Minnesota Duluth athletic director Josh Berlo said that finances led to the decision to release Miller. She was the highest-paid women’s hockey coach in the country.

That sparked a lot of online discussion, like these pieces from ESPN and the New York Times.

Others have said, “There has to be something more behind it, doesn’t there?”

And, yes, there is.

Privately, many in the athletic department have said for years that Miller is very impossible to work with. She has alienated a number of people there. That unquestionably has played a role in this decision.

Miller was once sanctioned by the NCAA. Despite being required to vacate the regular-season wins and the 2008 WCHA regular season title, Miller has ignored that and still claims those wins and that title (media relations staff is probably more culpable for this than Miller herself).

Also, since UND has arrived on the scene, the Bulldogs have essentially been relegated to a middle-of-the-road team in the WCHA. Duluth hasn’t made the NCAA tournament in four years and hasn’t won a game there in five years.

By my count, the Bulldogs have had 10 players transfer out in the past two years as well, which can serve as a red flag to administration.

I’m guessing all of the above played a role in Berlo’s decision to go another direction: The Bulldogs were paying top dollar for average performance, and on top of that, the coach was tough to work with and lost allies in the department.

Miller has been very critical of the administration for not trying to find ways for it to work. Had the Bulldogs still been contending nationally on an annual basis, they probably would have found a solution. Had she not alienated so many in the department, they probably would have been willing to alter her salary and keep her on.

As is, the situation serves as a stark reminder to all college coaches out there: If you’re going to be difficult to work with, you have to win. Otherwise, they’re not going to be eager to keep you around.

Caggiula is NCHC player of month

UND forward Drake Caggiula is the NCHC player of the month for November.

Caggiula is the nation’s second-leading scorer with 20 points this season, one behind Boston University rookie star Jack Eichel. Caggiula had 13 points in 8 games in November.

UND went 6-2-1 during the month, in large part, thanks to Caggiula’s 6 goals and 7 assists. He also had a plus-9 rating, second in the NCHC behind teammate Michael Parks.

UND netminder Zane McIntyre earned goalie of the week honors in the NCHC and women’s player Becca Kohler was named the offensive player of the week in the WCHA.