2015-16 Team-by-Team Previews: University of North Dakota

2015-16 Roster | 2015-16 Schedule

Head Coach: Brian Idalski (9th Season)
2015-16 Captains: Halli Krzyzaniak (C), Tanja Eisenschmid (A), Becca Kohler (A), Layla Marvin (A)

2014-15 Season Recap

Record: 22-12-3 (16-9-3-2 WCHA/3rd place)
WCHA Postseason: Conference semifinals; advanced to semifinals with quarterfinal series win vs. Ohio State, eliminated by Wisconsin in semifinal game

UND had hopes last year of staying within the conference’s top-three teams, competing for the WCHA postseason title, and making its way back to the NCAA Tournament, but those plans were slowed up at first by a bumpy start. The team opened the season with a 7-1 win over Rensselaer, but was upset the next night at home by Vermont, dropping that non-conference match-up, 3-1. UND began WCHA competition next, and picked up three straights wins from a sweep over Minnesota State and an overtime victory against Minnesota Duluth. They settled for the split with the Bulldogs, getting shut out the next day, and were then swept by Minnesota on the road, losing the second game in convincing fashion.

Those three losses were the beginning of an 0-6-2 stretch of play that did not end until a 4-3 win against Ohio State on Nov. 22. The two ties came against the Buckeyes and Wisconsin, and North Dakota was also swept on the road by Bemidji State during those eight games. Things looked to be turning around after a sweep of the St. Cloud State Huskies, but UND was then swept itself by Wisconsin on the road over the first weekend of December. They headed into the winter break coming off of two wins against RIT in non-conference action.

Their efforts to build off of that were halted when North Dakota suffered a loss in a crucial non-conference game against Syracuse and could only come away with the split against the Orange in early January. That was the first of just two losses to come for the rest of regular season for UND, however, as the turnaround that the team had been waiting for finally came to light. North Dakota tied with Minnesota and Boston College for the best record in the country over the remainder of the regular season, at 10-1-1. UND picked up sweeps against Ohio State and Bemidji State before taking five of six points from Minnesota Duluth on the road. They then returned home to face Minnesota, and earned their biggest victory of the season to that point with a 3-0 shutout win against the Gophers.

(Tyler Ingham/UNDSports.com)

(Tyler Ingham/UNDSports.com)

Minnesota came back and notched the win the following day, but UND closed out the regular season with sweeps over St. Cloud State and Minnesota State. Securing the third seed in the WCHA playoffs, they drew Ohio State in the first round and swept the Buckeyes. A three-overtime contest in game two practically turned it into a three-game series anyways, but Amy Menke buried the overtime winner to punch North Dakota’s ticket to the Final Face-Off, which they hosted the following weekend. Despite the team’s second-half turnaround, UND could not keep its season going, falling to Wisconsin in the semifinal game, 4-1.

Goaltender Shelby Amsley-Benzie played a big role in North Dakota’s run at the end of the year, and her play garnered her Second Team All-America honors as well as Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award Top-10 Finalist honors. She was also named the WCHA’s Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year, the WCHA’s Goaltending Champion, a First Team Academic All-American, and earned spots on the All-WCHA First Team and All-USCHO First Team. Forward Becca Kohler and defenseman Halli Krzyzaniak also collected all-conference honors, as both were selected to the All-WCHA Third Team.

Meet the Newcomers

G Kristen Campbell, Canadian Under-18 Team, Shaftesbury Titans Prep

Campbell was named to Team Canada for the 2015 IIHF Under-18 World Championships, and won a silver medal with the squad. In two seasons with Shaftesbury Prep, she posted a .941 save percentage, 0.92 goals-against average, nine shutouts, and a 25-3-1 record, which all went down as records for the team. She helped the team capture the 2014 World Sport School Championship National Title as well, and represented Team Manitoba at the 2013 Canadian Women’s National Under-18 Championships and the 2015 Canada Winter Games.

D Anna Kilponen, Finnish National Team

Kilponen has had the chance to represent Finland at seven different international tournaments, most notably the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, where she notched two assists in six games. She’s also skated in three IIHF World Championships, helping the team win bronze in 2015, and three IIHF Under-18 World Championships as well. With the Ilves hockey club, Kilponen won a Finnish title in 2010 and the European Championship in 2011.

D Taylor Flaherty, Lakeville North H.S.

Flaherty captained Lakeville North (Minn.) last season and notched totals of 11 goals, 12 assists, and 32 points on the season. A five-year letterwinner with the team, she also helped Lakeville North to a third-place finish at the 2014 state tournament after posting eight goals, 12 assists, and 20 points that year.

F/D Dorci Medgyes, Hungarian National Team, MAC Budapest

Medgyes is the first Hungarian to play NCAA Division I women’s hockey, and has represented Hungary seven times at the international level. She was a member of Hungary’s Under-18 Team in 2012, 2013, and 2014, and skated for the senior team at the IIHF Division II Group A World Championships in 2012 and 2013. She’s also played for Team Hungary at the 2014 and 2015 IIHF Division I Group B World Championships, winning the tournament’s Best Defenseman Award in 2014. Medgyes also spent 12 seasons playing for the MAC Budapest boys’ team.

F Breanna Berndsen, Pursuit of Excellence

With Pursuit, Berndsen tallied 31 points in 70 games over the last two seasons and competed at the World Sport School Challenge twice, winning gold in 2015 and silver in 2014.

F Charly Dahlquist, Eden Praire H.S.

As a senior last year, Dahlquist was recognized as a semifinalist for the 2015 Minnesota Ms. Hockey Award. In all, she scored 107 points in 88 career games at Eden Prairie, and was named to the all-state team in 2013-14 as well as the Minnesota High School Hockey Tournament All-Tournament Team in 2012-13. Dahlquist attended two USA Hockey player development camps and was an all-conference honoree four times in high school.

F Rebekah Kolstad, Mankato East H.S.

At Mankato East (Minn.), Kolstad earned Big-9 All-Conference honors four times and finished her career with 233 points over six seasons. The Hockey Night in Boston Top Scorer and Most Outstanding Forward was an all-state honoree in 2014, and garnered honorable mention honors in 2012 and 2013. Kolstad also participated in USA Hockey’s Under-18 August Festival in 2014, and earned the Distinguished Academic Achievement Award three different times, placing on the Academic All-State Team in 2013.

F Vilma Tanskanen, Finnish National Team, Espoo Blues

Tanskanen is also a national team veteran and a former Olympian, playing in four different international tournaments with the Finns to date. She cracked the senior team line-up for the 2014 Winter Olympics, as well as the 2015 IIHF World Championships. She also represented Finland at the IIHF Under-18 World Championships twice, in 2012 and 2013. She played her club hockey for the Espoo Blues in 2014-15.

For more details on UND’s incoming class, check out the UNDSports.com release here.

2015-16 Season Preview

Key Departures: F Josefine Jakobsen, F Andrea Dalen, D Johanna Fallman, D Tori Williams
Key Returners: G Shelby Amsley-Benzie, D Halli Krzyzaniak, D Gracen Hirschy, D Tanja Eisenschmid, F Amy Menke, F Becca Kohler, F Meghan Dufault, F Layla Marvin, G Lexie Shaw
Key Additions: D Anna Kilponen, D Taylor Flaherty, F Rebekah Kolstad, F Vilma Tanskanen, F Dorci Medgyes

Over the past several seasons, we’ve seen UND take on a different identity, as world-class forwards like Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux and Michelle Karvinen have graduated from the program and in their place an All-American goaltender and national team-caliber defensemen have emerged. The team’s defensive prowess is stronger than it’s ever been, and they’ll be relying on that to win games once again. But it took North Dakota some time last season to work through inconsistencies offensively, and they’ll have several adjustments to make up front again this season. They’re going to rely heavily on their top players to score goals, but the question then becomes whether or not that will be enough for UND to return to the NCAA Tournament after missing out the past two seasons.

With the loss of two top-six forwards in Josefine Jakobsen and Andrea Dalen, there are some concerns about who is going to step in and fill those holes. On the plus side, the team returns all three of its top scorers from last season in seniors Becca Kohler and Meghan Dufault and junior Amy Menke. For Dufault and Kohler, it was really the first year they were charged with leading the way offensively, and there were some expected growing pains with that. By the end of the season, Menke had also emerged as a dangerous scoring threat, and those three are capable of making things happen every game. Freshmen Rebekah Kolstad and Vilma Tanskanen will slot into the top-six right away, and fellow rookie Dorci Medgyes likely needs a bit more time to develop but she could be a big help once things start to click. Those three additions along with returners like Layla Marvin, Kayla Gardner, and D-turned-forward Samantha Hanson will help UND ice three competitive lines, though they’ll have trouble finding regular contributors from outside the top-six.

For as many question marks as there are up front for UND, there are seemingly just as many strong suits on the back end. They’ll be icing a defensive corps made up almost entirely of players with experience in international competition. Their top pairing of Halli Krzyzaniak and Gracen Hirschy is one of the most dynamic we’ll see in terms of total combined skills, and both have higher offensive ceilings as well. Senior and German Olympian Tanja Eisenschmid has long since established herself as a top-four defenseman, and freshman Anna Kilponen, who also has an Olympic Games under her belt, will look to make an immediate impact as well. Junior Jordan Hampton and senior Sam LaShomb will complement those two, and rookie Taylor Flaherty will be able to provide some quality minutes as a depth player, with greater potential for the future.

Shelby Amsley-Benzie has done her part over the last couple of seasons to establish herself as the team’s number one netminder by the postseason, and by the end of last year, she had become arguably the best goalie in the country with a nation-leading .952 save percentage, 1.21 goals-against average, and a program-best nine shutouts. We’ll see her and junior Lexie Shaw split time again to start the year, because Shaw is extremely capable of both handling some of the workload and pushing for the starting job herself. If Amsley-Benzie returns to the form she was in last season, North Dakota will again have arguably the nation’s top goaltender, and even if there’s any sort of drop-off, the team shouldn’t have much to worry about between her and Shaw.

Though filling the net might be a struggle at times, we should still see this North Dakota team remain competitive both in the WCHA and on a national level. Their defense and goaltending can match any in the country, and they’re better than most in those areas. In Kohler, Menke, and Dufault, they’ve got several players who can be counted on to produce, but scoring depth is the main concern. That may remain an issue all season, but there are things they can do to help negate that even without scoring, such as maintaining possession. They can do that from the defense out, and their defensive corps is strong enough to do it successfully. UND is going to rely heavily on its goaltending and blue liners to make sure things are going in the team’s favor, but they were right on the border of the NCAA Tournament last season, and with an even stronger group of defensemen and its top-line players returning, I’d expect them to remain a top team both in the WCHA and on the national stage.

Schedule Highlights

Oct. 2-3 at Rensselaer
Oct. 9-10 at Minnesota State
Oct. 16 at Bemidji State
Oct. 17 vs. Bemidji State
Oct. 29-30 vs. Minnesota
Nov. 20-21 vs. Minnesota Duluth
Nov. 27-28 at Syracuse
Dec. 4 at Bemidji State
Dec. 6 vs. Bemidji State
Dec. 11-12 vs. Wisconsin
Jan. 15-16 at Minnesota Duluth
Jan. 23-24 at Wisconsin
Feb. 5-6 at Minnesota
Feb. 19-20 at Ohio State

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