DULUTH, Minn. — On a night when Minnesota’s top line was fairly quiet, netting a single goal and adding a couple of assists, the second line centered by sophomore Sarah Davis exploded for five goals in a 6-0 win over North Dakota. Davis herself tallied her first career hat trick, and senior wing Emily West knocked in a couple, adding two assists as well.
The Gophers (30-5-2) looked to have scored on a power play two minutes into the game, but it was disallowed because it was ruled that Davis directed it in with her skate. The line’s response on their next shift resulted in West burying a goal at 3:21, and Minnesota was off and running.
“Kelly [Seeler] made a great shot and saw a screen there,” West said. “I kind of popped off and was able to kind of pull it towards me a little bit and just barely put it through.”
West finished the night plus six, while Davis was plus five.
“They had a little more going than that, but that line was fantastic,” said coach Brian Idalski of North Dakota (22-11-3).
They struck again to make it 2-0 at 18:49 of the first period, as Davis walked around a defenseman and flicked a backhand upstairs.
Idalski said, “They scored at the end of the first, and then came out, scored the beginning of the second, and that was for all intents and purposes, that was a big part of the game. They took any chance we had of building any momentum with both of those. One-nothing, making it into the first, we can live with that. Two-nothing, not too bad. But for them to come out and get the third — they did what good teams are supposed to do.”
Davis scored the goal to make it 3-0 four minutes into period two when Stephanie Ney was unable to cover the puck and the Gophers started banging away.
“I think [Megan Bozek] shot it from the blue line and hit one of their players, and Sarah Erickson backhanded it,” Davis said. “I don’t know how it never went in from the first time, but kind of popped out in the slot, and I was lucky enough to have an open net. I was hoping I wasn’t going to miss on that.”
Jen Schoullis also scored for the Gophers, Amanda Kessel had two assists, and six others contributed a single assist.
Noora Räty rejected everything that North Dakota generated, finishing with the ninth shutout of her season and 25th at Minnesota.
“Noora was great early, and through the middle, and late, and made those big saves when we needed her to,” Frost said.
She said she felt good about her performance. “This gave me a lot of confidence.”
When North Dakota had quality opportunities, Räty was challenging the shooter.
“I’ll try to be aggressive, if I see their heads are down, then I know that for sure they’re going to shoot,” she said. “If I see that our ‘D’ are taking back door, then there are no worries.”
Räty stopped 27 shots. The Gophers also had 27 shots on goal, and Ney saved 12 of the 17 she saw, while Jorid Dagfinrud handled eight of nine in relief.
“We played scared,” Jocelyne Lamoureux said. “We played afraid to make a mistake. After we were losing by five, six goals, we started playing well, but it’s easy to play well when now there’s really nothing to lose. When it was a close game, we were afraid to make mistakes, we were afraid to play our game, and that’s not the way you win games at this time of year.”
This is still new territory for a North Dakota team not accustomed to March hockey.
“We need these games,” Idalski said. “As crazy as it’s going to sound, a great learning experience for our club today; it really was. You need to go through these; you need to struggle.”
What is yet to be determined as the tournaments around the country play out is whether or not the Fighting Sioux will have any more games this season.
“This is the position you don’t want to be in, is waiting to see who else is winning and losing games,” Lamoureux said. “Now it’s a waiting game until Sunday.”
“We didn’t have our best showing, but Minnesota is a hell of a hockey club,” Idalski said. “I’ve seen a lot of teams come through our league, win national championships. That team is about as deep and as talented as any team I’ve competed against.”
Minnesota turns its thoughts to Saturday night’s championship tilt with Minnesota-Duluth.
“Before we hopped on the bus, we looked at our rink, and looked at the banners that were hanging up there, and saw that 2005 was the last time that we won the WCHA tournament championship,” Frost said. “I just don’t worry about this group that we have. I know that they’re going to come out, and they’re going to lay it on the line. Take our chances; if we lose, certainly, they’re going to play as hard as they can, and that’s all you can ask as a coach. They’ll be very motivated as well tomorrow, for sure.”