The University of North Dakota women's hockey team suffered a heartbreaking loss tonight to conference rival Minnesota State at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, 5-3, as both teams' ended long streaks.
The Mavericks (7-18-3, 6-15-1-0 wcha) are a lot happier to see theirs go as they end a 15-game winless streak one short of their program's all-time record of 16 set last season. UND, on the other hand, suffers its first loss in 2011 and ends a eight-game unbeaten streak falling to 15-8-3 and 13-7-2-0 in league play.
"This part of the growing pains of being a mature hockey club that knows and understands how to win game-in and game-out," head coach Brian Idalski said. "We were hoping we wouldn't have to go through this but unfortunately this is part of the steps of becoming a very solid and dominant hockey team. Hopefully this burns into a lot of kids memory banks about how to take care of business when you have an opportunity."
Although entering tonight's game on a program-record unbeaten and winning streak, the Sioux knew they hadn't been playing its sharpest hockey, even though with a win tonight could have jumped above Minnesota into sole position of second place in the WCHA standings.
"We haven't focused too much on that," Idalski said about the WCHA standings. "Here is the situation: we are still pretty young as a team and I don't think we have really handled this stretch very well. I didn't think we were playing fantastic. We were winning hockey games and we were putting up some goals, but by no means were we dominant and sharp from start-to-finish."
The Sioux didn't score the game's first goal for the first time since Jan. 7 at Vermont as Ariel Mackley was able to beat UND netminder Stephanie Ney (100 Mile House, British Columbia) on the power play at 11:24 of the first period.
The score would hold entering the break and the Sioux trailed at the first intermission for the first time since at Dec. 30 at Minnesota Duluth. Both those games ended in Sioux wins but the Sioux couldn't repeat the feat tonight.
Since Christmas break the Sioux have relied on strong second halves of games and it looked like they might be following that trend again today as they would go on to scored the game's next three goals within a 10 minute span of the second period.
Junior Alyssa Wiebe (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) would get UND on the board when she received a pass to all alone in front of the net and she buried it only 1:40 in the second stanza.
Sophomore Ashley Furia would follow it up we a great individual effort as she was stuffed by the leg of MSU backstop Danielle Butters' left leg but was able to swing her body around to the other side of the crease and as she was falling to the ice batted the puck in.
Only 44 seconds later at 10:29, Candace Molle (Anchorage, Alaska) scored her second of the season to put the Sioux up 3-1.
"I think we were a little bit foolish with the puck and careless after the 3-1 lead," Idalski said. "A two-goal lead is a dangerous lead for reason in hockey. You want to push for the next one but you don't want to be as risky as we were and they were able to capitalize on some egregious mistakes on our part."
MSU would score four unanswered goals to pick up its second split with UND this season with two goals in each of the second and third periods including an empty-netter.
"I think forechecking they were a lot more passive tonight," Idalski said. "They were sending one and then locking the lanes, trying to clog neutral ice, and take away our speed through the neutral zone which we thought was pretty good yesterday. It worked out for them."
The Sioux outshot the Mavericks 31-19 but Butters was the difference in net picking up her second win in three tries against UND.
"You have to give the kid credit," Idalski said. "She played well and made the saves she needed to make. I feel like we left some opportunities out there and didn't finish as well as we should have. I thought they played well."
After scoring three power-play goals in the dominant 6-1 win the night before, UND went 0-for-7 tonight including three in the third period when the Sioux trailed by only one goal.
MSU would seal the game when Moira O'Conner would beat the Sioux, shorthanded and with Ney on the bench for the extra skater, to a iced puck and easily put it into the empty net with 1:14 left on the clock.
The Sioux had eight players have one point in the game.
UND will now go on the road for the next two weekends starting with Ohio State next weekend.