GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Amanda Kessel returned to action for Minnesota and sparked her team to a 4-2 victory on the road at North Dakota.
Kessel scored twice and added an assist for the Gophers (10-0, 6-0 WCHA).
“I felt pretty good,” Kessel said. “I was a little out of shape, but it felt good being out there.”
Minnesota had its tightest games of the season, but emerged unscathed.
“To get the sweep here tonight was really big for our hockey club,” Gophers’ coach Brad Frost said. “Again facing some pretty tough adversity and a tough team, but the kids came out on the other side of it.”
UND (4-4-0, 4-4-0 WCHA) got two goals from Meghan Dufault, her first tallies as a collegian.
“It was great, especially to get the monkey off my back since it’s been a few games,” Dufault said. “In a big game like this, it was helpful, but unfortunately, we didn’t come out on top.”
Kessel made her presence felt immediately, scoring on her first shift 1:24 into the game. She rushed the puck down the left side, carried it to the net, and was able to slide it through freshman goalie Shelby Amsley-Benzie.
After sitting out Saturday’s contest with an injury, Kessel said she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to hold up through the entire contest, so she tried to make an impact while she could.
Kessel also scored Minnesota’s second goal to put the Gophers ahead to stay at 12:52 of the second period. The junior intercepted the low shot of teammate Mira Jalosuo, moved across the crease and tucked the puck inside the far post.
“With a young goalie in there, our whole team, just get pucks to the net as much as we could,” Kessel said. “We struggled with that in the beginning of the game, but I think we did a good job of that as we went on.”
Minnesota also got power-play goals from Kelly Terry and Milica McMillen. Hannah Brandt contributed three assists.
“Kessel was dynamic; I think we had a hard time with her,” UND coach Brian Idalski said.
“She’s able to create so much for her linemates, but also for our team overall,” Frost said of Kessel. “It was good having her back in there.”
Dufault’s first goal came as a result of a sustained forecheck that hemmed the Gophers in their own zone for a long stretch in the middle period and eventually, North Dakota capitalized.
“Obviously, playing defensive first will lead to offense, so I think that helped a lot,” Dufault said. “We could have read it a little better sometimes, but I think overall it was good.”
She also had a power-play goal, one-timing the puck into an open net to pull the hosts within one late in the second period.
“For [Dufault] to get on the score sheet was huge for her mentally,” Idalski said. “Hopefully, she can play a little looser and with more confidence.”
North Dakota was hurt by four penalties in each of the second and third periods after playing a penalty-free opening frame.
“I didn’t like our discipline at times,” Idalski said. “I thought that was pretty brutal.”
North Dakota has a huge series starting on Friday, hosting Clarkson from the ECAC.
“Clarkson, the way the RPI works, even a split is not very good for us with some of the other results crossing over with conferences,” Idalski said.
Minnesota is on the road once more, playing a two-game set at Minnesota-Duluth.