In what figured to be a low-scoring contest, North Dakota got the crucial first goal from senior Ashley Furia at 12:36 of the first period and maintained a lead to the finish, beating Wisconsin 2-1 to advance to its first WCHA championship final.
“Just as we expected, a highly-contested game,” said UND (26-10-1) coach Brian Idalski.
Furia’s tally was the only goal until Monique Lamoureux doubled the advantage six minutes into the third period.
Erika Sowchuk answered for Wisconsin (23-10-2) ten minutes later, but could not draw even before the clock ran out.
Much of the last four minutes on the clock were spent killing a Badgers’ penalty and by the time Alex Rigsby left for an extra attacker, less than half a minute remained.
Still, Wisconsin’s Brianna Decker had a quality shot from the left side.
“I was happy when the buzzer went off,” said winning goalie Shelby Amsley-Benzie.
The loss looks to have ended the Badgers’ season.
“You’d like another crack at it,” said Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson.
Furia was in the right place at the right time when Tanja Eisenschmid fired from the left point and the puck glanced of her in front of the net and eluded Rigsby.
“It’s just exciting to come out with a win,” Furia said.
It looked like that would be it for offense as more than half of the remaining time ticked away, but Lamoureux shot from the left circle and beat Rigsby’s blocker to up the UND advantage to 2-0.
The Badgers attempted a late comeback as Sowchuck took a pass from Lauren Unser and slid it through the five hole of Amsley-Benzie.
“I didn’t even know it was in,” Sowchuck said.
Just over eight minutes into the game, Decker stopped on a partial break and then Monique carried to the net front on the other end, UND got the puck in the net, but used a high stick and the goal was waved off.
Decker said that the puck bounced a bit on her on that rush. She had another attempt shorthanded in the third period, breaking down the right wing, but Amsley-Benzie made the save. Decker said she may have cut it too fine as she tried to score low on the blocker side.
North Dakota almost let Wisconsin back into the game with penalties in the third period, giving the Badgers a long power play, including 30 seconds of a five-on-three advantage.
Idalski said his team has been more disciplined of late and though they got loose a couple times, it was due more to the time and energy of the game and his players’ compete level.
That discipline has carried UND to within 60 minutes of its first WCHA championship and that would bring another trip to the NCAA tournament. Barring that, the win over Wisconsin may have wrapped up a berth on its own, barring events out East that prove unkind to North Dakota.