There’s something about North Dakota that causes the Gophers women fits. Physical play, pesky forechecking, talented players and a well-documented history between the two hockey schools make this a can’t-miss matchup.
The last Gophers loss came against North Dakota on Feb. 17, 2012. UND is also one of the only teams to hold a brief lead over the Gophers this season.
North Dakota tried to do it again, but Gophers goaltender Noora Raty showed up once again.
The senior stopped all 30 shots for her sixth consecutive shutout to give the Gophers a 2-0 victory to clinch the WCHA Final Face-Off Championship at a packed Ridder Arena on Saturday night. Raty hasn’t given up a goal in 380 minutes, 56 seconds, since the team’s 3-2 overtime victory against Bemidji State on Feb. 16.
“I feel like I was in the zone for the whole game,” Raty said.
The Gophers’ victory set an NCAA record for most victories in a season with 38. It extends their NCAA-record 46-game winning streak dating back to that loss to UND last year.
North Dakota came out buzzing Saturday night, outshooting the Gophers 7-1 midway through the first period. But when the Gophers make a bad play or turn the puck over, Raty has been there.
Eventually, the Gophers dialed in. With 15 minutes, 56 seconds left in the second period, Megan Bozek launched a one-timer that deflected off Kelly Terry into the goal. Officials initially waved off the goal, and confirmed it was a high-stick after a lengthy video review.
Only 29 seconds later, Bozek made sure the Gophers would get on the scoreboard, this time with a one-timer that powered its way into the net. Milica McMillen earned the assist on the power-play goal to put the Gophers up 1-0. Bozek led the Gophers with seven shots on goal and Minnesota outshot North Dakota 34-30.
With 13:32 in the second, freshman Maryanne Menefee stole the puck in the defensive zone, cruised down the ice on a breakaway and scored to put the Gophers up 2-0. It was Menefee’s third goal of the weekend, and Raty secured the victory.
It’s clear these girls are clicking.
“We just want to play for each other,” WCHA Rookie of the Year Hannah Brandt said. “We always say, ‘Play for the girl sitting next to you.’”
Brandt, Menefee, Bozek, and Raty were all named to the WCHA all-tournament team.
“Any time you can represent the WCHA with a championship and throw your gloves and raise a banner here and those types of things are pretty special for our players and our program,” Gophers coach Brad Frost said.