MINNEAPOLIS — Faced with a possible three games against No. 2 Minnesota prior to NCAA selections, it was key for No. 5 North Dakota to come away with points to cement its candidacy.
In the first of those meetings, the Fighting Sioux (20-9-3, 16-8-3-2 WCHA) did just that, as first-line center Josefine Jakobsen scored an unassisted goal with 36 seconds remaining in overtime to give North Dakota a come-from-behind, 2-1 win.
“Coming down the stretch, specialty teams is what wins the games, and we scored a power-play goal at the end,” Jocelyne Lamoureux said. “Not necessarily on a set-up play, it was off a rush, but specialty teams is really what makes or breaks a team at the end of a season.”
Jakobsen broke through the left circle, and her shot caught a piece of a defenseman’s stick. Goaltender Noora Räty threw out her left leg and made contact, but couldn’t prevent the puck from finding the net.
“Heck of a hockey game tonight,” North Dakota coach Brian Idalski said. “We talked on the bench coming down the stretch that no matter what happened, just to enjoy the moment, have fun, play hard. Either way, you couldn’t be a loser in that one.”
The Fighting Sioux had the skater advantage after Minnesota’s Sarah Erickson and Lamoureux tangled on a rush and knocked the net loose in the Gophers’ zone at 3:45 of OT. Referee Ron Story assessed a cross-checking penalty on Erickson.
The Gophers (26-5-2, 20-5-2-1 WCHA) were frustrated by calls long before the final penalty of the night, as they were whistled for nine infractions to six on UND.
“There’s two sets of eyes out there that can make calls one way or another, and they made them against us tonight,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said.
Earlier, the two teams had traded a pair of ugly goals, each of which stood upon video review.
“You’re not going to get the pretty goals in games coming down the stretch,” Lamoureux said. “They’re going to be grinding goals and garbage goals, so that’s kind of what you expect coming down, especially with a team like Minnesota.”
Minnesota struck first at 16:06 of the second period, when Erickson’s centering pass hit a combination of Monique Lamoureux-Kolls stick and Jen Schoullis’ skate and slid across the goal line for a power-play goal. Anne Scleper had the second assist.
The Sioux answered 5:33 into the third. Michelle Karvinen’s shot hit the pipe and stayed out, but Lamoureux kept working until she got the puck through a tangle of bodies and over the line, with Lamoureux-Kolls getting the other helper.
“This one could have gone either way,” Idalski said. “They had lots of chances; we had lots of chances.”
Stephanie Ney made 35 saves to improve to 14-6-2 on the season. Räty had 23 stops on the other end.
“It’s upsetting to lose this one,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “Kids played hard, battled hard and gave a good effort tonight. Unfortunately, they hung around, both to their goalie’s credit and our lack of finish, and they were fortunate to get that one at the end and win the hockey game.”
North Dakota had far the better of the scoring chances in the scoreless first period, but couldn’t capitalize on any of its four power-play opportunities.
“It’s a little frustration,” Lamoureux said. “If you’re on the power play, the pressure is on you to try to put the puck in the net.”
The Gophers, losing for only the second time when scoring first and the first after leading at the second intermission, felt that they had played well for the most part, despite the result.
“Unfortunately when you lose, it’s the mistakes and the poor execution that get to you,” Schleper said. “We’ve just got to be prepared to come back out tomorrow and take it to them.”
The teams complete the regular season schedule on Saturday at Ridder Arena at 4 p.m., with Minnesota honoring it’s seniors before the game.
“It’s going to be very emotional,” said Schleper, one of the seven seniors. “We knew again this weekend overall was going to be emotional. I think our team is very good about keeping a level pace and not being too high, not too low.”
UND will savor the first game just a bit longer, after taking five of the last seven meetings with Minnesota.
“We’ve been waiting a long time to be part of games like that with our program,” Idalski said. “So big step for us.”