Tuesday, 3 December 2013

North Dakota sweeps Russian national team in exhibition series celebrating the game and friendship

A weekend series between the North Dakota Fighting Sioux and the Russian national women’s team was more than an exhibition, but a celebration of the game and the friendships that form a solid foundation. Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota was the setting as the nationally ranked Fighting Sioux were part of Russia’s exhibition tour of the United States.

Having returned for their first game since Thanksgiving, the Fighting Sioux showed some slight signs of rust during the first period of the November 29 game. The first period found Russia taking the lead with Alena Khomich logging a goal at the 13:02 mark. Of note, backstop Shelby Amsley-Benzie was kept very occupied as Russia would outshoot the Fighting Sioux by a convincing 10-4 mark.

Once the second started, the Fighting Sioux seemed refreshed and it showed in their play. At the 1:32 mark, Becca Kohler buried the puck past Russian backstop on a power play to tie the game at 1 apiece. Alexandra Kapustina was serving a penalty for bodychecking. The assist was credited to Josefine Jakobsen. Before the period would expire, Russia reclaimed its lead as Tatiana Shibanova scored with less than four minutes remaining.

With stout defensive play defining the first two periods, both teams combined for three goals in the third period. Once again, Shibanova would score for Russia with the visiting team enjoying a two goal lead. Despite facing a 3-1 deficit, the Fighting Sioux regrouped.

Merely 56 seconds after Shibanova’s marker, Layla Marvin scored to a roar of approval fromt eh 637 fans in attendance. With the assist credited to Susanan Tapani (who is also a member of the Finnish national team), the momentum shifted again. As Russia was called for two penalties (delay of game and cross-checking) the Fighting Sioux benefitted from a power play. Capitalizing on the opportunity, the squad would tie the game with only 1:39 remaining. Kohler would log her second score of the game while Tapani earned her second assist of the game. Of note, the Fighting Sioux outshot the Russians by an 18-3 mark in the period. 

As overtime could not resolve the deadlock, a shootout period was required. Following the international rules of five shooters per team, the Russian shooters were Diana Bulatova, Olga Sosina, Tatiana Shibanova, Olga Semenets amd Inna Dubanok. North Dakota countered with Tanja Eisenschmid (who competes for Germany’s national team), Halli Krzyzaniak, Lisa Marvin, Andrea Dalen (a member of Norway’s team) and Layla Marvin.

Of the 10 shooters, only freshman Krzyzaniak would score on Nadezhda Alexandrova to win the game. Having won a gold medal withy Canada at the 20123 IIHF Under-18 Women’s Worlds, she is one of many Fighting Sioux accustomed with the international game. Of note, Alexandrova would make 32 saves in a valiant performance. Becca Kohler would be named the First Star while Shelby Amsley-Benzie and Tatiana Shibanova were the remaining three stars in the contest.

For the following game, head coach Brian Idalski used the opportunity to see how his lineup would play without three of his key players. As Tanja Eisenschmid, Michell Karvinen and Susanna Tapani shall compete in the2014 Sochi Winter Games, Idalski scratched them from his lineup. In wanting to determine how his smaller roster was capable of performing, they performed with flying colors.

With freshman goaltender Lexie Shaw between the pipes for the Fighting Sioux, she would stop all 10 Russian shots in the first frame. Although North Dakota peppered Alexandrova with 12 shots, neither side could gain the advantage as the period expired in a scoreless deadlock.  

Early in the second stanza, Alexandra Kapustina was called for tripping and the Fighting Sioux would take advantage. Halli Krzyzaniak would score at the 2:09 mark, providing the squad with the 1-0 advantage. Credited with the assist was Kayla Gardner.

Russia would endure two more penalties in the second as Inna Dubanok was called for roughing and Alena Khomich served two minutes for hooking. Despite enjoying two more power plays, the Fighting Sioux were unable to add to their lead. Alexandrova would nullify several scoring opportunities as she kept her team within reach.  

As a defensive stalemate prevailed for most of the third period, Josefine Jakobsen would score the second goal of the game for the Fighting Sioux. Scoring at 16:54, it put the game out of reach for the Russian squad.

After the goal, there was a sense of desperation for the Russian team to get back in the game. Despite their best efforts, they were unable to solve Shaw. In addition, fatigue began to show in the final two minutes of the game for both sides. As four penalties were called (two for Russia and two for the Fighting Sioux), Shaw’s poise persevered the lead and the win. She would stop 31 shots for the shutout while Alexandrova made 33 saves. For her efforts, Shaw was named the game’s Third Star, while Krzyzaniak earned Second Star nods and Jakobsen was recognized as First Star.  

Top image obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/UNDWHKY

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