GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Led by a three-point outing from Gracen Hirschy, the University of North Dakota women's hockey team downed Bemidji State 4-1 in the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs on Friday night at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
With the win, North Dakota snapped a four-game losing streak and took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three quarterfinals series against the Beavers. It was also the first time all season that North Dakota fielded a full lineup; as UND returned its three Olympians and featured a fully healthy squad.
"It was really interesting, because that's the first two-goal lead we've had in a long time; it's been such a grind here for us and games have been so tight," head coach Brian Idalski said. "Overall, it was nice to have the group back and I thought everyone played well. There weren't any major breakdowns so it was a pretty solid win."
Though UND got off to a pretty fast start, Bemidji State would capitalize first. The Beavers earned the game's first power-play opportunity and took advantage quickly to grab a 1-0 lead midway through the first.
A few minutes later, Bemidji State found itself shorthanded, and North Dakota's own power play helped the team take back control of the game. UND generated some pressure with the man advantage, and Hirschy scored her first goal just as the power play expired to tie things up. North Dakota got the puck to the net and took a couple of whacks at it before Hirschy got her stick on it to beat BSU goaltender Brittni Mowat.
Hirschy scored her second of the night about seven minutes into the second period to give UND a 2-1 lead. While on the power play again, Meghan Dufault looked for a back-door play and found Hirschy down low, who held the puck for an extra second before slipping it five hole past Mowat.
North Dakota controlled the play the entire second period, limiting Bemidji State to just two shots on goal in the entire period. However, even with UND's dominating play, the game was still in question until UND's offense broke through in the third period.
On a two-on-one rush, Dufault fed Susanna Tapani a backdoor pass, who then tapped it into the open net to put North Dakota up 3-1. Captain Michelle Karvinen added to the lead just 26 seconds later when she buried a backdoor pass from Leah Jensen, making it 4-1.
North Dakota scored more than twice in one game for the first time since a 4-3 win over Minnesota Duluth on Feb. 8.
Goaltender Shelby Amsley-Benzie finished with 13 saves in the victory, while Mowat made 34 stops on the night.
North Dakota will look to close out the series tomorrow night at 7:07 p.m. at Ralph Engelstad Arena. If necessary, a third game will be played on Sunday at 7:07 p.m.