North Dakota opened its inaugural season by splitting a pair of exhibition games at Manitoba; the games summed up what head coach Shantel Rivard had said of her team beforehand.
“We have a young, inexperienced team,” she said during training camp. “Our fitness level is good and we’re putting in a lot of hard work. We will not give up in games this year.”
In Friday’s 3-2 victory, the Sioux had to show their work ethic. After taking a 3-1 lead with just over six minutes to play, UND allowed Manitoba to score but held off the Bisons at the end.
“I thought it was a very good performance for the first game,” Rivard said. “We have a lot of things to work on, but this was definitely a big win.”
Amber Hasbargen had 15 saves in the game for the Sioux while Meaghan Nelson and Aynsley Allen had the team’s other goals.
Saturday saw the Sioux hold a 36-21 advantage in shots on goal but the inexperience of youth showed.
“I actually thought we outplayed them, as the shots on goal would indicate,” Rivard said. “They just capitalized on their chances and we didn’t.
“Mistakes are to be expected from a young team, and when we made those mistakes, Manitoba capitalized.”
Hasbargen and Margaret-Ann Hinkley will backstop the team during its inaugural season. Hasbargen was named the high school goalie of the year in Minnesota as a senior at Warroad High School last year.
“They have different styles,” Rivard said. “They’ll split time for now and we’ll see what happens.”
The defense features a senior, a junior and four freshmen and is a group Rivard likes.
The duo of upperclassmen is expected to anchor the blue-line unit. Rivard ranks former UND club player senior Mikaela Tofte as having the team’s best shot. Junior Abbey Strong is a transfer from Findlay where she had nine points last season and has six goals and 21 points in 65 career games.
Up front, North Dakota got a pair of transfers from Findlay in juniors Stasia Bakhit and Sherrie White. White scored the game-winning goals in Friday’s exhibition victory while Bakhit assisted on the team’s lone goal Saturday.
Last season, Bakhit led Findlay with 17 goals and 26 points while White was tops on the team with 10 goals. Bakhit has 48 career points while White has established herself as a goal-scorer, notching 25 goals in 65 games.
Rivard said excitement surrounds her team right now and she hopes that continues.
“We’re a first-year team in the best college arena in the country,” she said, referring to the $100 million Engelstad Arena. “We’re excited to make history. You only get to start a program once.”
UND has a 32-game schedule in its first year, six exhibition games against Canadian universities and 26 games against NCAA Division I opponents. The Sioux will play 15 home games, including 14 Division I games.
North Dakota’s first official game will be Sunday, Oct. 20, at Bemidji State. The Sioux’s home opener will take place Oct. 26-27 when they take on Boston College.