One of the intriguing things about the playoffs is the finality of single elimination game. One bad bounce of a puck can end a team season, an ill-advised penalty can be the final nail in the coffin.
Players in their senior year school (that have played their last game) don’t want to take the sweater off for the last time. It’s an emotional time.
The 2014-15 season for the University of North Dakota women’s hockey team is over. There will be no more games this season. There will be no more practices. The way the season ended will leave an empty feeling for the players and the fans.
After beating the Wisconsin Badgers in the playoffs the last two seasons, the Badgers finally got some sweet revenge on the Green and White. Led by Sarah Nurse’s two goals, the Badger put the final nail in the UND’s season. Badgers sophomore goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens was a brick wall in net stopping 26-of-27 shots.
Four seniors have played their final game for UND (Johanna Fallman, Andrea Dalen, Tori Willams and Josefine Jakobsen). All four were character players and will be missed next season. For the players that return next season, there’s a lot of potential to improve on this past season.
After starting out the season with a 7-9-2 record, UND went on a torrid 15-3-1 run and almost qualified for an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney. But in the end, their push to the NCAA tourney fell a couple of games short.
Earlier this season, I touched on this subject a bit, but it’s worth revisiting.
The 2014-15 UND hockey team experienced their fair share of adversity and it brought them together and it emboldened them.
“I feel like It has been a tough year,” junior goalie Shelby Amsley-Benzie said. “I think it kind of brought us all together. There are a lot of people that we’re playing for. We playing for ourselves, we’re playing for Becca’s (Kohler) dad. We’re playing for Lisa (Marvin). So we’re kind of playing together for ourselves.”
The UND women’s team knows that they have to win the WCHA’s Final Faceoff to make the NCAA tourney. They’re battle ready and up for the challenge. Finally, they’re playing for themselves and they’re loved ones.
Head coach Brian Idalski reflected on his team’s journey.
“It is by far the most growth of a group start to finish that I’ve ever been apart of as a coach and maybe as a player,” Idalski said. “So I have a lot of respect for our leaders, our captains, and our seniors. We had to play a little bit different than we had in the past few years; they embraced it.
Idalski continued, “They’re a good group. There’s a lot of heart in that locker room. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take it to the final levels. Those kids are going to have some memories and some friendships that are going to span their lifetime.”
I asked coach Idalksi if this was his most fulfilling season as a coach.
“I think so. I really do,” an emotional Idalski said. “I got very close to this group. It’s unfortunate it didn’t end the way that we would have like it too. But that’s a solid group of people. Not only in our locker room and on the ice, but in the classroom and in the community. I am real proud of them.”
Final stats and thoughts
In conclusion, it was a pleasure to cover the 2014-15 UND women’s team. They were a fun group to watch play and they made great strides on the ice. They were a bunch of likable characters that were always on message. They also appeared to be a pretty tight knit group that truly liked being around each other.
Finally, this team reminded me of the 2011-12 UND men’s team that also experienced a lot of adversity and met every challenge with a bring it on mentality. They fell just a bit short of the goals, but when you look back at where they were and where they finished, they were a smashing success. You also have to give a stick tap to the coaching staff for holding everything together when things could have gone south.
Shelby Amsley-Benzie finishes the season (18-7-3, 1.21 GAA, .952 SV%).
With the loss, North Dakota finishes the season with a (22-12-3) record. Their season is over. With the win, Wisconsin improves to (27-6-4) and will play Bemidji State in the championship game on Sunday at 1 pm.