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College Hockey:
Kessel scores four as Gophers upend North Dakota 6-3

— Teams can display a little rust coming out of the holiday break as Minnesota was, while North Dakota had played a series last weekend.

There was some rust, but Amanda Kessel and Hannah Brandt didn’t look rusty, and they propelled Minnesota (21-0-0, 15-0-0 WCHA) to a 6-3 victory.

“A great win against a good club, especially coming off such a long layoff,” Gophers coach Brad Frost said. “When you give up three in the last seven minutes, it doesn’t feel quite as good, but that’s just what we’re demanding of our team is to be better. We can’t go down two men to a team like that and allow people to be wide open on the backdoor and not pick up. Noora [Räty] didn’t have a chance on those first two and even the last one. But I think there were certainly more positives than there were negatives.”

Amanda Kessel found the net four times and added a helper.

“I got a few that were lucky, but it was nice playing with my line mates again,” she said.

Her center, Brandt, had a goal to go with three assists.

“They’re pretty good,” Frost said. “They continue to find each other. Meghan Lorence did a great job on that line and created some great plays, some great opportunities for those two as well.”

Lorence assisted four times while skating with the country’s two leading scorers.

“It’s fun to play on Kessel and Hannah’s line,” Lorence said. “They make it a whole lot easier for me. Just kind of get the puck to them and they do all of the work, so it was a fun night.”

She has been the most common substitute on the Gophers’ top line when Maryanne Menefee has been out of the lineup in recent weeks.

“They’re just a bunch of playmakers,” Lorence said. “I kind of let them be crafty, and I try to get the puck for them and do some of the work for them.”

The Gophers’ winning streak grew to 29 games, but North Dakota (13-8-0, 8-7-0 WCHA) succeeded in snapping another Minnesota streak at that number, as the hosts had gone 29 straight without allowing more than two goals in a contest.

“It’s not often that we get beat 6-3 like that and I think we played well,” UND coach Brian Idalski said.

His team outshot the hosts by a 35-25 margin.

It didn’t take long for the offense to click. Brandt carried to the left edge of the crease then fed the puck back up the slot to where Kessel waited with a wide-open net that she didn’t miss to make it 1-0 just 24 seconds into the game.

“She could have shot that puck, and I knew she saw me,” Kessel said. “I almost whiffed on it to be honest. I was like a little surprised when I got it, but with Hannah’s vision, I knew that she would see me there.”

The two combined again 10 minutes later. Kessel from the sideboards found Brandt coming down the slot and the rookie picked a corner for her 20th goal. Lorence assisted on each of the first two tallies.

The lead doubled in the middle frame. Kelly Terry’s wraparound ricocheted off of a couple of UND players and wound up in the cage for an unassisted goal.

Kessel connected on a power play late in the period for a 4-0 margin.

She completed her hat trick to make it 5-0 in the third period before North Dakota got on the board.

It took a five-on-three power play to spoil Räty’s potential shutout at 13:25 of the final stanza. Michelle Karvinen did the honors, scoring her fifth goal in an injury-delayed season.

Meghan Dufault tallied goals number 10 and 11 of her rookie campaign, sandwiched around Kessel’s fourth. Dufault also had an assist to lead the UND offense.

“We had to finish the game as if the momentum leads into tomorrow’s game,” Dufault said. “Win or lose, we battled hard and came back, and that set the pace for tomorrow. We’re going to try to come out hard tomorrow and do it the whole game.”

“I like our club,” Idalski said. “We’ve got some young kids that can play and they’re coming along and getting better and better.”

The teams complete their season series Saturday at 4:07.

Is Idalski encouraged for that game after his team scored three of the final four goals in Friday’s game?

“If they give us another four or five five-on-threes, yeah, we should be in great shape.”

Lorence doesn’t think that UND owns the momentum heading into game two.

“We just have to keep our mind on that we got the win out of that and just to regroup and come out stronger tomorrow.”

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