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Women's hockey: Sioux miss opportunity

In the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, there has long been a "big three," referring to Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth and Wisconsin -- the trio that accounts for every league and NCAA women's national title.

In the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, there has long been a "big three," referring to Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth and Wisconsin -- the trio that accounts for every league and NCAA women's national title.

Losses to them have been expected for the UND women's hockey team. But after a 5-0 defeat to Minnesota-Duluth on Sunday afternoon, Sioux coach Brian Idalski says that it is no longer accepted.

"There is no more big three as far as I'm concerned," he said. "We had an opportunity this weekend to take points. We should have. But we didn't do it. The standings are close. It doesn't matter who you are playing. We have five wins and two are against Wisconsin. So, I don't think that plays. And it's definitely not playing next year or the year after."

The Sioux, who close the regular season with series against Ohio State, Bemidji State and Minnesota State-Mankato, hope they don't have to wait until the arrival of U.S. Olympians Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux next season in order to find offense.

But right now, they are having trouble finding the back of the net. They've been shut out in four of the last seven games, including Sunday's 21-save performance by Lana Steck. It came one day after UND scored three times, led by a goal in the final minutes, but ended up losing in overtime.

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"We can tell a lot about the character of your club and your experience and leadership from how you bounce back from what was obviously a gut-wrenching game the day before, when everything is going right for you and a couple of bounces later, you are staring at defeat again.

"We didn't respond at all. I didn't think we came out with very much energy. It snowballed from there."

The Sioux had no answer for Duluth's top players. Top-line winger Laura Fridfinnson had two goals and two assists, while defenseman Tara Gray had two goals and an assist. The other top-line winger, Emanuelle Blais, had the other Bulldog goal. Canadian Olympic candidate Jocelyne Larocque had two assists and registered a plus-three rating.

Stephanie Ney started in goal for UND for the first time since a 5-5 tie with Maine on Nov. 27. It didn't go smoothly for the sophomore. The Bulldogs scored a goal off of a skate blade in the first period and added three more in the span of 4:09 at the end of the second period. Jorid Dagfinrud played the third period.

"I wanted to get Ney a game," Idalski said. "It's been a while and obviously she looked a little rusty."

Notes: UND played without junior forward Stephanie Roy (injury) for the sixth straight game. . . Senior Cassandra Flanagan tied the program record for most penalty minutes.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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