By John Gilbert, for WCHA.com
DULUTH, MN. --- Sarah Davis scored three goals and linemate Emily West wice Friday night as Minnesota's top line propelled Minnesota to a 6-0 romp over North Dakota in the second semifinal of the Women's WCHA Final Faceoff tournament at AMSOIL Arena. The Golden Gophers move into an all-Minnesota championship game Saturday night against Minnesota-Duluth, which upset top-seeded Wisconsin in the first game.
"We played a complete game, 60 minutes," said Minnesota coach Brad Frost, whose team finished second to Wisconsin in a two-team title chase. "The favorite lost tonight, with Wisconsin losing, and we didn't want to see two upsets.
"When we left, I looked around our arena, and noticed that the banner that showed the last time we won the league playoff championship was 2005. We're really excited about the chance to play for the championship, and we know what we'll get from Duluth in the final."
Junior Noora Raty recorded her second shutout in a row, ninth of the season, and boosted her school record for career shutouts to 25, as she stopped all 27 shots by third-place North Dakota. The victory makes Minnesota 30-5-2, while the Fighting Sioux slip to 22-11-3, but still cling to a top-eight rank that should earn them a place in next week's NCAA tournament field.
Davis led the charge from the outset, when a power-play pass across the slot glanced in off her skate at 2:14. The goal was eventually disallowed, but barely a minute later West scored with a rebound to the left of the goal, Minnesota had outshot the Sioux 5-0, and the barrage had started.
West fed Davis late in the period, and she made it 2-0 by crossing the slot and scoring with a backhand at the right edge.
"It was a tough one for us tonight," said North Dakota coach Brian Idalski. "Minnesota got the lead, and we had trouble with their speed as they built the lead. But it wasn't all us; Minnesota has a helluva hockey team. I've seen a lot of teams come through our league and go on to win the national championship, and that club is as deep and talented as any I've seen."
In the second period, Davis scored again at 4:09, and it started to look deceptively easy when Jen Schoulis stickhandled around two defenders while rushing up the right side. She shot from the circle, and the puck glanced off starting goaltender Stephanie Ney, carrying into the net at 8:09, to make it 4-0.
Minnesota made it 5-0 a second after a power play had expired, when West tried to pass from the left circle. The puck was blocked back to her, so she shot instead and scored. "I tried to pass to Davie (Davis)," West said, "and when it came back to me I shot. It hit their defenseman, then I got lucky and it bounced off (the goalie's) elbow and went in."
That prompted Idalski to summon Ney to the bench and install Jorid Dagfinrud, a junior from Norway, between the pipes. She didn't have much work, since the damage had been done.
With Davis and West both scoring twice, they collaborated on the only goal of the third period, which was another odd goal. West moved in from the right corner for a shot that hit Dagfinrud and trickled beyond her, coming to rest in the crease. Davis raced a Fighting Sioux defenseman for the puck, and as luck would have it, Davis fanned on her attempt, but the near miss got enough of the puck to send it just across the goal line at 3:26.
"I whiffed, and the air from my whiff blew the puck across the line," joked Davis.
Raty, meanwhile, had several big saves, but mainly she had an easy shutout.
"We played scared," said Jocelyn Lamoureux. "After we were losing by five or six, we started playing well. They called off that first goal, but we didn't respond. At this time of year, it's not about adjusting, or who you cover, it's about playing your game. Tonight we showed up excited, but when the game started, we sat back, and didn't really go for it."
Raty, meanwhile, said she doesn't know how many shutouts she has. "I always play like the goalie should get a shutout," she said.
Frost looked over at his star goaltender and said, "Nobody talks to Noora except our goalie coach. I don't think I've ever given her any advice -- and you can see the result of that."