BEMIDJI, Minn. - The No. 1 Minnesota women's hockey team scored two power-play goals in the second period and added an empty-netter in the third to secure a 3-1 win over No. 3 seed North Dakota and claim its third-straight WCHA Final Face-off title Saturday night.
Junior Rachel Ramsey (Chanhassen, Minn.) and freshman Dani Cameranesi (Plymouth, Minn.) led the Gophers with two points each on one goal and one assist. Sophomore goaltender Amanda Leveille (Kingston, Ont.) and senior Kelly Terry (Whitby, Ont.) joined Ramsey and Cameranesi on the WCHA Final Face-off All-Tournament Team. Ramsey was named the Final Face-off Most Valuable Player as well.
"Obviously it was a great win tonight, and I am very proud of our team against a very good opponent," head coach Brad Frost said. "Our power play was clicking as good as it has been all year, and I thought we made the most out of our opportunities. This is big for us as it will give us momentum going into next weekend."
Minnesota (36-1-1) finished two-for-three on the power-play and outshot North Dakota, 44-21, en route to its sixth WCHA postseason title. Leveille finished with 20 saves, while UND's Shelby Amsley-Benzie kept the game tight with 41 saves.
North Dakota (20-11-4) took a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal by Josefine Jakobsen at 2:45 of the second period after the teams played a scoreless first period. However, Minnesota answered with two second-period goals to take a 2-1 lead into the second intermission before sealing the victory with an empty-net goal late in the third.
"I think North Dakota's goal gave us a little fire to get moving," Ramsey said. "It was kind of a reality check as Wisconsin went down 1-0 and was not able to put the puck in the net (against UND in the WCHA semifinals). It looked like that for a while, but we knew we would eventually put it away."
The Gophers scored the equalizer at 10:48 of the second period when Ramsey fired a shot from the top of the slot, showing great patience in waiting for an open shooting lane. Terry and sophomore Maryanne Menefee (Lansing, Mich.) assisted on the play with just four seconds remaining in a Gopher power-play.
Ramsey then set up the Gophers' second goal of the period, firing another shot from just inside the blue line on the power play. Sophomore Hannah Brandt (Vadnais Heights, Minn.) redirected the bouncing puck past Amsley-Benzie to give the Gophers the 2-1 lead at 14:12 of the second.
"I knew Ramsey was going to shoot the puck, so I knew I had to get to the net," Brandt said. "I was there at the last minute, and I was able to get a piece of it and it went in."
Minnesota outshot UND 13-10 in the third period but could not extend its lead until North Dakota pulled Amsley-Benzie with 1:30 remaining. Cameranesi fired a long shot into the empty net off a feed from junior Rachael Bona (Coon Rapids, Minn.) with 1:16 to play to seal the win.
With the victory, the Gophers earn the league's automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. The rest of the eight-team tournament field will be announced live on NCAA.com at 5 p.m. CT on Sunday.
"We aren't too concerned about who we get in the first round, but it is always fun to face a new team and see how they play," Brandt said. "Whoever we play, we will be ready for Saturday."
The NCAA first round is set for March 14-15, and the 2014 NCAA Women's Frozen Four is March 21-23 in Hamden, Conn. If the Gophers host a game, it is expected to be scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday, March 15 at Ridder Arena.