First, to set the record straight: Freshman phenom Elizabeth Giguere, whose overtime, breakaway goal Sunday gave Clarkson another NCAA women’s hockey championship, is not related to the goalie who spoiled the Wild’s 2003 playoff run.
Her dad’s name is Jean-Sebastien Giguere, but … different guy.
“A lot of people have asked me that before,” she said. “No he’s not [the goalie]. Sorry.”
That’s probably a relief for Minnesota hockey fans. They had already seen Clarkson beat Colgate 2-1 at Ridder Arena for its third NCAA title in five years, clearly establishing a dynasty rivaling the Gophers’ run of four titles over the past seven years.
After upsetting Minnesota for the 2014 championship and Wisconsin for the 2017 title, Clarkson was the favorite this time as the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. But the Golden Knights (36-4-1) needed overtime to win all three tournament games.
The odyssey started with a 2-1 nail biter against Mercyhurst, which ended on a Giguere move with cartoon-like brilliance. She had the puck on a 2-on-2 and made a toe drag that caused both Mercyhurst defenders to collide into their goalie, leaving an open net for the tap in winner.
“If you watch the Mercyhurst goal, there’s not a lot of players who can make that play and just see it develop the way that she did,” Clarkson coach Matt Desrosiers said.
In Friday’s semifinal, Clarkson and Ohio State were scoreless deep into overtime, when Giguere delicately lifted a saucer pass, over a defenseman’s stick, right to speedy Loren Gabel, for the game winner.
Then came Sunday, when Clarkson found itself locked in a 1-1 battle with ECAC rival Colgate before an announced crowd of 2,992 in the Gophers’ 3,400-seat arena.
The Women’s Frozen Four might have been missing the arena’s home team, but it didn’t lack for drama. It was the first time the event had all three games reach overtime, and the first OT women’s final since 2010, when Minnesota Duluth defeated Cornell.
No. 3 seed Colgate (34-6-1) was on a memorable run, too, playing in its first NCAA tournament. The Raiders survived double overtime to beat Wisconsin 4-3 in Friday’s other semifinal. Senior forward Annika Zalewski insisted fatigue wasn’t a factor Sunday.
“We played the game we wanted to play,” Colgate coach Greg Fargo said. “A good player made a play at the end; that was the difference.”
Giguere is a Quebec native, just like the former Anaheim Ducks goalie who held the Wild to one goal over the entire 2003 Western Conference finals. But again, that’s mere coincidence.
She was named a second-team All-America last week and had numerous scoring chances throughout the championship game. The others were fruitless, as Clarkson’s only goal during regulation came late in the first period from fourth liner Cassidy Vinkle.
Malia Schneider tied it 1-1 for Colgate early in the second period, and each team’s fans held their breath until Giguere did her thing at the 7:55 mark of OT.
Clarkson blocked a shot that squirted into the neutral zone, and Colgate freshman Shelby Wood went to retrieve it. Giguere smelled blood. She stole the puck, with her momentum carrying her toward the Colgate goal, and Wood fell down, creating the breakaway.
Giguere almost fell down, too, as her right knee hit the ice. But she slowed down to gather the puck, faked right, getting goaltender Julia Vandyk to commit, and pulled left, tapping a backhand into the net. She slammed her stick and gloves down, as her teammates mobbed her into the glass.
Asked to describe the move, Giguere said, “I kind of black out, really. Like, I can’t really remember what happened.”
“I wish I could make plays like that when I black out,” Desrosiers said.