Gophers split against rival North Dakota

The power play dictated Minnesota’s play during the series.

Minnesota defenseman Rachel Ramsey prepares to pass the puck against North Dakota on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013.

Lisa Persson, Daily File Photo

Minnesota defenseman Rachel Ramsey prepares to pass the puck against North Dakota on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013.

Grant Donald

Despite bolstering the best power-play unit in the nation, No. 2 Minnesota went 0-for-4 with the advantage on Friday night, allowing rival North Dakota to cruise to a 3-0 victory.

Saturday was a different story, however, as the Gophers went 2-for-5 on the power play, which sparked a 3-1 comeback victory to salvage three WCHA points.

“I think our power play was really, really good [Saturday],” head coach Brad Frost said. “We were possessing the puck and moving it around well and generated some momentum and chances, which we did not do [Friday].”

During the first 10 minutes of Saturday’s contest, it seemed like the Gophers’ play might have carried over from the night before. North Dakota scored in the first two minutes, and Minnesota was on the verge of coming up empty on yet another power play.

But with six seconds remaining on the power play, sophomore forward Dani Cameranesi found the back of the net, snapping a five-game scoreless streak.

“Our main goal going into [Saturday’s] game was to possess the puck on the power play because we struggled with that [Friday],” Cameranesi said. “We finally were able to make some passes and got the puck in the net. We did all the dirty stuff in the paint, which really helped.”

Early in the second period, Minnesota turned to one of the best scorers in the nation, junior forward Hannah Brandt, to give the team its first lead of the weekend.

The Gophers extended their lead to 3-1 behind another power-play goal, this time from a more unlikely source — senior defenseman Rachel Ramsey. The goal marked Ramsey’s seventh of the season.

“[Scoring] isn’t something that happens often for me, so I was pretty excited,” Ramsey said. “But the game was still up in the air [after I scored], especially with North Dakota playing the best hockey that I’ve seen them play.”

Ramsey’s goal would prove to be plenty, as the Gophers shut out North Dakota the rest of the game behind junior goaltender Amanda Leveille’s 17 saves.

While Leveille sealed the victory for the Gophers on Saturday, North Dakota goalie Shelby Amsley-Benzie stole the show Friday night as she shut out one of the most prolific attacks in the nation with 25 saves.

“I thought North Dakota played some really desperate hockey [Friday],” Frost said. “They blocked a ton of shots and made it difficult to get to the net. They deserved the three points.”

With the split, the Gophers lost a guaranteed opportunity to clinch the WCHA during next weekend’s series against Minnesota-Duluth. Now, the team may have to wait until the final weekend of the season against Bemidji State.

Considering it was the second consecutive weekend with somewhat disappointing results, Frost said the team’s last two series have increased in importance.

“We are trying to win a conference championship here,” Frost said. “We are playing some top-10 teams that are all very good, so there are no guarantees when you step out on the ice. I can live with these results as long as we play the way we always have.”