Sweep of Sioux has team back on track

Chris Lempesis

If anybody had been questioning Minnesota’s women’s hockey team after last weekend’s sluggish performance at St. Cloud State, the Gophers quieted them somewhat this weekend.

Minnesota (27-1-2, 22-0-2 WCHA) showed why it’s the No. 1 team in the country in its sweep of North Dakota at Ridder Arena.

Combined with a Minnesota-Duluth split at St. Cloud State, Minnesota moved into sole possession of first place in the WCHA by winning 7-0 Saturday and 4-2 Sunday.

“Overall, it was definitely a much-better weekend,” freshman forward Bobbi Ross said.

With the exception of the final 25 minutes of Sunday’s game, the Gophers consistently overwhelmed the Sioux (7-20-3, 3-19-1) on both ends of the ice.

Ross was one of the reasons for the improved showing, contributing two goals and two assists on the weekend.

Both of her goals came in Sunday’s 4-2 win.

The first of those came at 18:47 of the first period, when she banged in her second rebound attempt from right in front of the net past North Dakota goaltender Amber Hasbargen.

The goal, Ross’ 11th of the year, doubled Minnesota’s lead at 2-0, and her 12th goal of the season was soon to follow.

Just 1:19 into the second period, Ross slid a soft backhand from the slot past Hasbargen to give the Gophers a 3-0 advantage.

Ross, who is known for her strength and toughness, said she likes to get herself down low near the net.

“I think it won’t take long for me to be known for getting garbage goals,” she said. “I like being down there, because then I don’t have to pick any corners. I can just hit the puck and it will go in.”

Junior forward Natalie Darwitz closed out Minnesota’s scoring at 9:19 of the second period.

But the Gophers seemed to deflate late in the stanza, and North Dakota took advantage, netting two goals in 19 seconds.

Though Minnesota didn’t allow any more tallies after that, intensity was definitely lacking for the remainder of the contest.

“(Saturday), I thought we played strong for 60 minutes and today maybe 30,” coach Laura Halldorson said Sunday.

The Gophers were certainly on from start to finish in the first game – mostly because of to the play of their first line.

Darwitz, fellow junior Krissy Wendell and senior Kelly Stephens accounted for 12 of Minnesota’s 18 points (six goals, six assists) in the win.

Despite the performance, Stephens said the line is never in awe of itself.

“It’s not one of those things that we’re like, ‘Hey we want these points’ or ‘We got this goal,’ ” she said. “It’s really a team effort, and that’s what makes it great.”