Gophers captain Megan Bozek is one of 10 finalists for this year's Patty Kazmaier Award, given to the national player of the year in women's hockey, but she's pretty sure someone else is going to win.
"I've got my money on the girl who just broke the record," Bozek said Friday night, after Minnesota opened the WCHA playoffs with a 5-0 victory over Bemidji State at Ridder Arena.
Bozek scored two goals, but once again senior goaltender Noora Raty stole the show, making 20 saves to establish an NCAA record with her 40th career shutout.
Raty also tied the NCAA single-season mark for shutouts with her 14th. Former Wisconsin goalie Jessie Vetter had 14 shutouts one season and 39 for her career.
"I think [Raty] continues to cement herself as the best collegiate goalie of all time," Gophers coach Brad Frost said.
But Raty is quick to credit her team's defense for helping keep pucks out of the net. The Gophers (35-0) have allowed just 0.83 goals per game.
"I feel like we have the best defense in the nation, so that makes my job much easier," Raty said.
Minnesota's defensemen can score a little, too. Bozek's two goals gave her 17 for the season. Fellow senior Mira Jalosuo opened the game's scoring with a blast from the point at the 3:50 mark of the second period.
Bozek made it 2-0 early in the third period when she rushed into the zone and beat Bemidji State goalie Jessica Havel. Then freshman Rachel Ramsey took a shot from the blue line that Kelly Terry tipped in to make it 3-0.
"All six of [the Gophers defensemen] generate offense for us," Frost said. "They've all got big shots and find a way to get involved in the play, and we have to get our D involved. That's something we've been working on this week."
The Gophers stretched their NCAA-record winning streak to 43 games, dating to Feb. 17, 2012. Bemidji State might be 6-25-2, but the Beavers pushed Minnesota to overtime on Feb. 16, before the Gophers pulled out a 3-2 win.
"They're tough," Frost said. "I think on paper, you can look at our record compared to theirs and it looks like a mismatch. I think it's anything but that when we face off against those guys."
Game 2 of the best-of-three series will be Saturday at 4:07 p.m. If necessary, Game 3 would come Sunday.
The Gophers have four of the 10 finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award, including Amanda Kessel and Hannah Brandt. Kessel, who leads the nation with 94 points, played only a few shifts after missing last weekend's series at St. Cloud State.
"She's still dinged up," Frost said. "She showed great leadership on the bench, just having her there if we needed her."