Rivalry returns in North Dakota

Minnesota ended North Dakota’s season last year in the NCAA tournament.

Goalie Noora watches the action down-rink during a game against St. Cloud State on Feb. 5, 2012 at Ridder Arena.

Jules Ameel, Daily File Photo

Goalie Noora watches the action down-rink during a game against St. Cloud State on Feb. 5, 2012 at Ridder Arena.

Betsy Helfand

Minnesota lost just five games all of last season when it won the national title. Two losses came against North Dakota.

The two teams played six times last year, and this year, the Gophers seem to have a good idea of what they’re in for this weekend in Grand Forks, N.D.

Junior captain Bethany Brausen said she thought the Gophers’ familiarity with North Dakota would be helpful.

“It’ll be a very similar team, I think, [to what] they had last year,” Brausen said. “We know all their tendencies, and we’ll get some videos and see any little small differences.”

Head coach Brad Frost said from the tape he’s watched, North Dakota doesn’t look much different from last year, and it still looks “very dangerous.”

The Gophers are also very familiar with North Dakota’s two top-scoring forwards, twins Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux.

The Lamoureux twins played for Minnesota for a season before transferring.

North Dakota enters the weekend ranked No. 8 after sweeping St. Cloud State. The Gophers are undefeated and ranked No. 1.

“I think it’s a great measuring stick for our team, just to see where we’re at,” Frost said. “Obviously North Dakota’s one of the top teams in the country, so [we’ll] just see if we can keep things going.”

Minnesota most recently swept then-No.6 Ohio State with 7-2 and 8-0 victories at home.

In the Gophers’ eight wins this season, they’ve outscored opponents by a staggering margin: 52 goals.

“I think it’s important that we kind of acknowledge what we’ve done so far, but it doesn’t really prove anything,” Brausen said. “We’ve got to make sure that we’re going into this weekend proving something.”

She said there is “a lot of added excitement” because of the rivalry with North Dakota.

North Dakota has seen success of its own with the Lamoureux twins in the past few seasons.

“Before the [twins] transferred there, we didn’t really have any rivalry,” Gophers goalie Noora Räty said. “Now they have a good team, so it’s always big games for us and for them.”

Minnesota won four of six games against North Dakota last season.  A 5-1 victory at Ridder Arena in last season’s NCAA tournament ended North Dakota’s title hopes.

Frost said he thought North Dakota would be gunning for the Gophers for a different reason.

“When you’re No. 1 in the country, that’s more incentive for other teams,” he said. “I think the biggest factor is they’re predicted to finish second in our league, and we’re predicted to finish first.”

The two teams each have 12 points in the WCHA, so they’re technically tied for first, but North Dakota has two more losses than Minnesota.

North Dakota’s two goalies have split time in the net, but senior goalie Jorid Dagfinrud has posted a 0.30 goals-against average in four games.

“She’s aggressive. She does a nice job seeing the puck and controlling the rebounds,” Frost said of Dagfinrud.

Last weekend, Frost tinkered with the lines, moving Rachael Bona to a line with Brausen and Becky Kortum.

Bona scored once Friday, and both Bona and Kortum netted a goal Saturday.

“What I’ve liked is regardless of where we’re putting kids, they’re having success,” Frost said. “Rachael played really well with Brausen and Kortum this last weekend.”

Frost said he wasn’t sure yet what the lines would be for the weekend.

With a win, Räty would set a Minnesota record for career wins with 84.

“In the end, I don’t care if I break it or not — just if we get a sweep,” she said.