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WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Minnesota skates past UND in WCHA semis

MINNEAPOLIS--There weren't many holes in a rugged Minnesota defense, and those that were available were nearly impossible to find for the UND women's hockey team on Saturday. Minnesota downed UND 2-0 in the semifinals of the WCHA Final Face-Off a...

MINNEAPOLIS-There weren't many holes in a rugged Minnesota defense, and those that were available were nearly impossible to find for the UND women's hockey team on Saturday.

Minnesota downed UND 2-0 in the semifinals of the WCHA Final Face-Off at Ridder Arena.

Even in the third period, when the Fighting Hawks had a 5-to-3 power play advantage, the Gophers' defense held firm and blanked the UND offense.

"Tough game," said UND coach Brian Idalski. "The 5-on-3 killed us in the third period. That was a huge momentum swing."

Minnesota's Amanda Kessel and Hannah Brandt refused to yield the power play advantage to the Fighting Hawks.

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"They were reading properly; they were stepping up and being super aggressive and challenging us," said Idalski. "They didn't really let us have any space and on a 5-on-3 that was a little demoralizing."

Minnesota entered the game as the top-scoring offense in the WCHA and second-best in the nation. The Fighting Hawks held the high-scoring Gophers in check for most of the contest, but couldn't stop everything.

Second-ranked and the defending national champion Minnesota improved to 32-3-1 on the season. No. 8 North Dakota fell to 18-12-5.

Minnesota went up 1-0 on Sydney Baldwin's power-play goal in the first period and Amanda Kessel scored in the second period.

"It was a real solid game from the net on out today," said Minnesota head coach Brad Frost. "Being able to get that one on the power play and being able to extend the lead there in the second to 2-0 was big.

"A couple of key moments in the game, obviously the 5-on-3 kill at the start of the third was huge. I don't think we gave up a shot. Our players just did a remarkable job with that. It created a lot of energy in the building and a lot of momentum for us."

The Gophers will face the Wisconsin in today's title game. The winner gets an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. Wisconsin (33-3-1) blanked Minnesota Duluth (15-21-1) 5-0 in the first semifinal to advance to the finals.

It was the 17th consecutive appearance in the WCHA semifinal round for the Gophers, who knocked off Ohio State in two games to advance. North Dakota was making its sixth straight appearance following a pair of 6-1 wins over fifth-seeded St. Cloud State.

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The Fighting Hawks slipped to 1-3-1 against the Gophers this season.

North Dakota senior goalie Shelby Ashley-Benzie had 32 saves in the contest.

The Fighting Hawks had 21 shots on goal.

Related Topics: UND FIGHTING HAWKS HOCKEY
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