The most compelling drama in the Gophers women’s hockey team’s 62-game winning streak came against North Dakota in last year’s NCAA quarterfinals.
It was loser-goes-home for nearly three overtimes before Kelly Terry finally scored the game-winner for Minnesota.
After losing 10 times to the Gophers during the record-breaking streak, North Dakota was more than thrilled on Nov. 17 to be the team that finally ended the string with a 3-2 triumph at Ridder Arena.
Now, it’s the Gophers who have a chance for revenge.
No. 1-ranked Minnesota, which has since reeled off 12 consecutive games without a regulation loss, opens a two-game series at No. 3 North Dakota on Friday night.
“They’re probably pretty mad at us for that [triple-overtime loss], and we’re pretty mad at them for ending our streak,” Terry said. “So there’s extra fire for both teams.”
That’s extra fire for what was already Minnesota’s most heated women’s hockey rivalry.
The Gophers actually have more history with Minnesota Duluth and Wisconsin. Those three teams have combined to win all 12 national titles — UMD five, Gophers four, Wisconsin three — since the NCAA began crowning a women’s champion in 2001.
But to players on this year’s Gophers team, the North Dakota series has become the most intense. It was a fairly tame rivalry until 2009. That’s when the Lamoureux twins, Monique and Jocelyne, left the Gophers for North Dakota, returning to their hometown of Grand Forks.
“The rivalry became that much more real at that point,” Gophers senior captain Bethany Brausen said. “The four years I’ve been here they’ve been a team to reckon with.”
The Gophers were 28-0 against North Dakota all-time before the Lamoureuxs made their debuts in green. North Dakota won five of the next seven meetings, including a 2-1 overtime victory on Feb. 17, 2012, the game that preceded Minnesota’s 62-game winning streak. Minnesota still leads the all-time series with North Dakota 40-6.
“I would say in the last three years, the rivalry has started to blossom,” North Dakota coach Brian Idalski said. “I think we have to win a few more of those games for it to be full-fledged.”
But it’s big enough now that North Dakota hopes to break its single-game attendance record (3,200) on Friday at Ralph Engelstad Arena, with a $1 ticket promotion.
Both teams have been affected by the upcoming Olympics. Two Gophers expected back next season will be in Sochi, Amanda Kessel and Lee Stecklein. North Dakota will be without Finnish forwards Michelle Karvinen and Susanna Tapani and German defenseman Tanja Eisenschmid. Even without all those standouts, Idalski expects another entertaining series this weekend, with fast play up and down the rink.
“I think outside of the Olympics, this is probably as good of hockey as you’re going to see,” he said.