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Minnesota Womens Hockey: Gophers Dominate #9 North Dakota in Sweep!

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The Gophers left no doubt who was the better team this weekend.

Hannah Brandt led the Gophers with seven points on the weekend!
Hannah Brandt led the Gophers with seven points on the weekend!
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The #1 ranked Gopher women's hockey team utter demolished #9 North Dakota this weekend at Ridder Arena.  The Gophers won 5-2 on Friday night and 5-0 on Saturday afternoon in games that would not have been that close has it not been for outstanding goaltending by North Dakota goalie Shelby Amsley-Benzie.

The Gophers fell behind early in the first period Friday night, but it would be the only time the weekend that either game felt in doubt.  Andrea Dalen took a pass from Gracen Hirshy and put a low shot past Gopher goalie Amanda Leveille.  The Gophers would tie the game at the 10:39 mark of the first when Dani Cameranesi would score her first goal of the game on a gorgeous feed from Hannah Brandt.  The Gophers would outshoot North Dakota 12-3 in the period, including a good chunk of 5x3 power play time, but due to Amsley-Benzie, the game remained tied at 1 going into the second period.

North Dakota controlled much of the play in the second period including starting the second with a 8-0 shot on goal edge, but Leveille stood tall making all of the saves she needed to make including a breakaway save off of her mask.  The Gophers got a break from the relentless pressure when UND took a penalty, and it was the opening the Gophers needed.  Millica McMillen took a great feed from Kelly Pannek to score the power play goal. It was her fourth goal of the season at that point, and all four had been power play goals.  Leveille continues to make some great saves, and the Gophers took a 2-1 lead into the third period.

The Gophers shut down the North Dakota power play which came into the game #2 in the nation behind Minnesota in the third period.  UND had two back to back attempts but could not find the back of the net.  Minnesota withstood the pressure including one jaw-dropping stick save by Leveille.  The Gophers would once again take control of the game and would get the game winning goal at the 11:54 mark of the third when freshman Cara Piazza scored her third goal of the year.  Pannek picked up her second assist of the night with a pretty assist from behind the net and the Gophers took a two-goal lead.  North Dakota would not give up as  Tanja Eisenschmid ripped a slap shot over Leveille's shoulder with 3:39 to play to cut the Gopher lead to 3-2.  However, Minnesota would tack on two empty net goals as McMillen would score her second of the game with 2:01 left in the game, and Cameranesi would tally her second of the game with just one second left on the clock to complete the 5-2 victory.  Gopher Coach Brad Frost had some post-game comments on the victory:

The Gophers and UND came back Saturday afternoon to play the second game of the series, and this one was over before it started.  The Gophers jumped out to a powerful start and North Dakota never got into the game.  The Gophers started the scoring when Hannah Brandt took a pass from Cameranesi in the slot and fired a shot off the inside of the left post and into the net.  It was just the start of would would be an incredible game for Brandt.  The Gophers controlled the game in the early going, so much so that North Dakota did not even get a shot on goal until there were 8 minutes left in the first period.  The Gophers would add a second goal with just under 1:30 left in the first when Maryanne Menefee scored her first goal of the season on a one-time blast from an Brandt pass.  The Gophers wold take the 2-0 lead into intermission.

The second period was even more dominated by the Gophers.  The only reason this game did not get out of hand was the incredible play of UND goalie Amsley-Benze.  The Gophers outshot North Dakota 23-1 in the second period, yet could only score one goal.  McMillen once again got back to scoring on the powerplay as she ripped a shot from the right faceoff circle into the net.  Brandt would get her second assist and third point of the night as well.

The Gophers would complete the domination in the third period.  The Gophers got another power play early in the period, and Brandt wasted no time  scoring her second goal of the night and NCAA leading ninth of the season.  Cameranesi and Pannek picked up the assists.  The Gophers would add their final goal midway through the period when Menefee scored her second of the night on their 50th shot on goal of the game.  Brandt would add the assist for her season-high fifth point of the game, and to give her 18 for the season, again leading the nation.  The Gophers would finish the game outshooting the #9 team in the country 51-7 and winning 5-0. Leveille turned away all seven shots she saw for quite possibly the easiest shutout of her career. Here are Brad Frost's comments on the Saturday win in dominating fashion.

The Gophers will take their #1 ranking into another home series next weekend against Bemidji State.  The teams will play at 7:07 Friday, and 4:07 Saturday.