BEMIDJI, Minn. — The Minnesota Golden Gophers scored two power-play goals to North Dakota’s one and tacked on a goal into an empty net for a 3-1 win to claim the WCHA title for the third straight year.
“Obviously, just a great win tonight,” coach Brad Frost said. “I’m really proud of our team, against a very good opponent, playing so well.”
Minnesota (36-1-1) has now won seven consecutive championships with its consecutive league playoffs, two regular season titles, plus two NCAA titles.
“It just shows, not just this year’s team but previous year’s teams, just how the culture has changed,” Frost said. “We’re a team that plays for one another, and it’s a pretty big deal to win all those trophies in this league in particular.”
North Dakota (20-12-4) sees its season end at the hands of the Gophers for the third straight campaign.
“No shame in the game,” coach Brian Idalski said. “I thought we competed, played hard, gave ourselves an opportunity at the end with a bounce. That’s the way it goes. Best of luck to Minnesota. They’re champions for a reason. They played a terrific game.”
Special teams were the story of the second period, with all three goals coming with the advantage.
“Power play was clicking again tonight, as it has been all year,” Frost said.
Hannah Brandt was stationed on the left edge of the crease and got a tip of a Rachel Ramsey shot for a 2-1 Gophers’ lead at 14:12 that they would not relinquish.
“I didn’t see it until the last second,” Brandt said. “I just tried to get a piece of it, and luckily, it directed right into the net. I’ll take those ones I guess.”
Dani Cameranesi had the other assist, and completed the scoring with 1:16 remaining into an empty net for the 3-1 final.
North Dakota had some good looks in transition on odd-man rushes, but it was unable to convert, particularly on a second-period, two-on-one rush.
“It was Milica [McMillen] who made a great play on that,” Idalski said. “[Meghan Dufault] was a little hesitant as a righty coming down the right side, didn’t have a great angle, looking to make a play. Milica just did a nice job defensively to take that away.”
McMillen was able to drop to a knee and get a toe on Dufault’s attempted pass.
For the period, Minnesota led 19-6 in shots on goal.
“For whatever reason, our second periods have been an Achilles’ heel for most of the year,” Idalski said. “I don’t know why it was. I thought we got into a little bit of penalty trouble in the second as well, and that’s kind of a difference in the game.”
The teams combined to take three penalties in the middle frame, and all resulted in goals.
“Our kill wasn’t bad, but Rachel Ramsey got player of the tournament for a reason,” Idalski said. “She was running the power play, making solid decisions, and I really credit a lot to her maturity there running the PP. And if she doesn’t have it, Hannah Brandt does, whose hockey I.Q. is as good.”
UND’s Josefine Jakobsen got the game’s first goal 2:45 into the second period, taking a rebound of Michelle Karvinen’s shot off of Amanda Leveille’s pad and smacking it into the net. Tanja Eisenschmid also assisted.
“We knew that it worked for us later in the season to get shots from outside and then taking the rebounds,” Karvinen said. “We just tried to set up quickly and get a shot off.”
The Gophers, rather than UND, seemed to gain momentum from the tally.
“I think it kind of gave a little fire for us to get moving, get going,” Ramsey said. “It was kind of a reality check, especially with Wisconsin yesterday going down 1-0 and just not being able to put the puck in the net. That’s kind of how it looked for a while, but just weren’t scoring.”
Minnesota responded with a power-play goal of its own. UND killed most of it off, but couldn’t get to the bench for the second period’s long change.
“They got stuck in the zone, which is always key for us,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey’s drive from the point found the net inside the post.
“There’s a lot of pressure to put the puck in the net when you’re down 1-0,” Ramsey said. “You don’t get opportunities like that too often. Maryanne [Menefee] did an incredible job in front screening. It makes my job easy when all you have to do is shoot.”
There were only four seconds left on the penalty, but that didn’t concern Ramsey.
“We have a very talented offense,” she said. “I’m blessed to play with all those players. I know that they’re always going to find a way to score, whether it’s on the power play or even-strength.”
Shelby Amsley-Benzie had another busy night in goal with 41 saves, while Leveille was called on to make 20 stops.
“Overall, I thought the team played really well in front of me again,” Amsley-Benzie said. “I’ll do my job, and I know they’ll be out there and they’ll have my back and they’ll do their job. It’s just not how we would have liked it to turn out.”
Ramsey was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Terry, Cameranesi, and Leveille, and North Dakota’s Dufault and Eisenschmid.