The new look No. 8 North Dakota Fighting Sioux continued their ascension in the hockey world with a 4-3 victory on the road against the No. 3 University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in front of 915 fans at Ridder Arena.
In the first 28 meetings in the rivalry, the Sioux (3-2-0, 2-1-0 WCHA) had never won. On this night, they changed that. The Sioux erased one-goal deficits three times before Jordan Slavin’s unassisted goal 32 seconds into the final period gave UND a lead that they held on to for the win over the Gophers (3-1-0, 0-1-0 WCHA).
“We got a bounce tonight, and that’s the way it goes in tight hockey games with two good teams,” Sioux coach Brian Idalski said. “A bounce here or there, a mistake there, and that was the difference; it could have gone either way.”
The deciding bounce came off the stick of defenseman Slavin while the teams were skating four-on-four. She carried the puck into the zone wide around the Minnesota defense before cutting back to the crease and getting the puck behind goalie Alyssa Grogan.
UND is starting the season with an intimidating schedule, with series against three opponents ranked in the top four in the country coming into that weekend.
“No. 4 (Boston University), No. 1 (Minnesota-Duluth), and No. 3 (Minnesota) for the first six games,” Idalski said. “It wasn’t long ago that would have been 0-and-6, and I don’t know if we recover from that. So it’s nice that we’ve been able to pull out some wins to start the year and give us some confidence.”
Some of that confidence came with the arrival of twin sisters Jocelyne Lamoureux and Monique Lamoureux-Kolls via a transfer from Minnesota after a year with the United States Olympic Team. Though the twins were held to a combined two points, Slavin and Sara Dagenais each stepped up with a goal and assist to lead the Sioux to the big win.
“A lot of people thought that two superstars were coming to the team, but obviously as you can see, we’re getting scoring from all lines,” said Lamoureux-Kolls, who scored a five-on-three goal late in the first period to forge a 2-2 tie. “It quiets the critics to see that everybody on the team is contributing.”
The Sioux answering Gophers’ goals was the pattern through the first two periods. Minnesota’s Becky Kortum sniped an unassisted goal on the game’s second shift; Margot Miller immediately converted a feed from Alyssa Wiebe to knot the score at 1-1.
After Amanda Kessel spotted Jen Schoullis alone on the far post for a 2-1 Minnesota lead at 7:57, the Gophers got in penalty trouble by committing four minors in less than seven minutes. UND capitalized with Lamoureux-Kolls’ fourth tally of the year at 16:03 off an assist from her sister.
When Kelly Terry found the top shelf on a two-on-one for her first Gophers goal and a 3-2 score at 9:40, Dagenais put the Sioux even four minutes later on a rush of her own.
Idalski said that it was key that his team, which dressed only ten forwards, was always able to counter quickly.
“When we play from behind, we exert a lot of energy; we can’t afford to do it.”
Of course, every time a coach is happy to erase a deficit, his rival laments a lead lost.
“It’s not the way that we would have wanted to respond after we started the game 1-0 early,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said.
He found his team’s first league contest to be a mixed bag.
“We did a lot of good things, but we did some things that we can correct as well,” Frost said. “It was what I would consider a pretty hard-fought game between two pretty good teams. Unfortunately, tonight we came out on the wrong end of it.”
Fortune did not favor Minnesota on the injury list either, as All-American goalie Noora Rty joined Minnesota’s top returning scorer Emily West to watch the game in street clothes from the stands due to an undisclosed injury.
Following the final horn, a melee broke out and 70 minutes of penalties were issued. Kelly Seeler and Wiebe had five-minute majors for slashing. Sarah Erickson, Schoullis, Dagenais and Ashley Holmes were all called for hitting after the whistle and assessed game misconducts.
Grogan got the start in her stead and stopped 24 of 28 shots, while UND’s Jorid Dagfinrud turned back 30 of 33 Gopher attempts in evening her personal record at 2-2.
Additional success appears to await the Sioux.
“We were a young team last year,” Idalski said. “We took our lumps, but we were in a lot of hockey games. Now, they’re a year more mature. You add the twins on top of that, who are extremely dynamic and deserve every accolade they get, so I think we have a nice club and we’re building for the future.”
The teams play again at Ridder Arena on Saturday at 4:07 p.m.