Gophers host top-10 North Dakota

Minnesota was 4-1 against North Dakota in five games last season.

Grant Donald

The last time North Dakota played at Ridder Arena, it snapped the Gophers’ record-breaking 62-game winning streak.

Since that day, Minnesota has posted a 30-1-2 record, with its only loss coming in last year’s national championship game.

“I think our team after [the North Dakota] loss last year played a lot more free,” head coach Brad Frost said. “The weight of the streak wasn’t in the back of their minds and that [they’ve] got to win every game.”

The historic streak had to end eventually, but North Dakota putting a stop to it only increases the intensity of the rivalry.

“We obviously didn’t focus on the streak, but we always look back at it and remember that one loss,” senior forward Meghan Lorence said. “We’ve learned a lot from it since then, and I think it built a little fire in us.”

While there may not be any records on the line when the two teams meet this weekend, there’ll still be a new chapter unfolding on the ice in the heated rivalry.

“I’ve never really liked [North Dakota],” sophomore forward Kate Schipper said. “Even growing up, I was never really a fan of them.”

Schipper was one of the Gophers that found success against North Dakota last year, racking up five points and finding the back of the net four times during the teams’ meetings last season.

This year, the Gophers come into the weekend series with momentum on their side, as they just completed a sweep of then-No. 1 Wisconsin.

That led Minnesota back to the No. 1 spot Monday when they received all 15 first-place votes.

North Dakota, meanwhile, enters the weekend as the No. 9 team in the nation.

It will have to deal with Minnesota’s offense, which is averaging 4.17 goals per game, the second-most in the nation.

Junior forward Hannah Brandt  is on an early-season tear and is leading the nation in goals scored with seven goals in six games.

“I think I have gotten a lot of lucky bounces this year,” Brandt said. “Obviously our team is playing well, and I have good linemates with me, but it’s just being in the right spot at the right time.”

Brandt and the rest of the Gophers attack will be tested this weekend, as North Dakota features one of the best goalies in the nation, junior Shelby Amsley-Benzie.

Amsley-Benzie is tied for third in the nation in save percentage and has only allowed only three goals in four games this season.

“There are just a ton of good goalies in the WCHA,” Frost said. “The philosophy remains the same. We have to get pucks to the blue paint [and] get things to the net and take away the goalie’s eyes because if they can see it, they will save it.”