|1st||13:09||MIN||1-0||PP GW||Hannah Brandt (22)||Dani Cameranesi/29, Amanda Kessel/1|
|2nd||1:25||MIN||2-0||EV||Sydney Baldwin (3)||Milica McMillen/14, Kelly Pannek/21|
|3rd||6:32||MIN||3-0||EV||Sophie Skarzynski (2)||Amanda Kessel/2, Hannah Brandt/27|
|Shots on Goal||1st||2nd||3rd||SOG|
|Team Stats and Records||PP||PIM||SHGF|
|North Dakota (14-9-4)||0/1||2/4||0|
|North Dakota Goaltending||MIN||GA||1||2||3||Saves|
|Shelby Amsley-Benzie (L, 12-8-3)||60:00||3||7||13||9||29|
|Amanda Leveille (W, 19-3-0)||60:00||0||9||13||7||29|
MINNEAPOLIS - Amanda Kessel recorded two assists in her first college hockey game in almost three years, and Amanda Leveille made 29 saves in her sixth shutout of the season as the No. 3 University of Minnesota women's hockey team defeated No. 8 North Dakota, 3-0, in front of 2,635 fans Friday night.
Hannah Brandt scored the game-winning goal on the power play midway through the first period, and defensemen Sydney Baldwin and Sophie Skarzynski added goals in the second and third as Minnesota (25-3-0, 20-3-0 WCHA) secured its 25th win of the season.
"It was a great night tonight on multiple fronts," head coach Brad Frost said. "Amanda Leveille really shut the door and allowed us to get that two-goal lead and then to pop that one there in the third was huge.
"Obviously a big night for Kessel and for our program and our fans, to have her back in the lineup after a long layoff. Great to see her back to herself, probably not quite in game shape yet, but as you saw tonight, just a difference-maker on the ice, someone that you have to account for. Getting two assists in your first game in close to three years is pretty special. Overall, we're really happy with the win and looking forward to tomorrow."
Kessel's return shifted the Gophers' lineup as she joined Brandt and Dani Cameranesi on the top line. The addition of Kessel to an already deep Minnesota roster had a beneficial trickle-down effect in Frost's eyes.
"If teams focus on Kess and Hannah, you've got another future Olympian that you're going to have to deal with who's a top-five scorer in the country right now (in Cameranesi)," Frost said. "The three of them are pretty dynamic. But, the other thing you have now is Sarah Potomak on our second line, and our second line is really good.
"I think one of the biggest differences is Cara Piazza centering our third line, and I thought our third line was awesome tonight. We were able to have a lot of confidence in having Cara's line out there against the top North Dakota line. The trickle-down effect makes us a lot better. Brook Garzone, playing her first game at defense in a couple years, played really well. The depth we have on our team is really incredible."
North Dakota (14-9-4, 11-8-4-2 WCHA) received 29 saves from goaltender Shelby Amsley-Benzie in the loss as the teams were even at 29 shots apiece.
Minnesota was perfect on the power play for the third-straight game, going one-for-one on Brandt's power-play goal. UND was scoreless on its lone opportunity with the man advantage.
Kessel's return was the arguably the most exciting part of the night for Gopher fans. Her appearance marked her first collegiate game since playing in the 2013 NCAA national championship game on March 24, 2013. The Madison, Wis., native took a redshirt year in 2013-14 to represent the United States at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Kessel then missed the 2014-15 season while recovering from a concussion. The 2015-16 season marks her final year of eligibility.
"When we started Kessel tonight, it was pretty emotional," Frost said. "To see our team support Amanda with their stick taps the way they did and hear the crowd -- I don't think I've heard it that loud since we won the national championship here. So many people were just so excited to see her work her way back to where she is now."
Minnesota and North Dakota wrap up this weekend's series at 4 p.m. CT Saturday afternoon at Ridder Arena.