The Ridder Arena crowd roared as North Dakota rushed the ice in celebration of a 3-2 victory on Sunday afternoon. The ovation, however, belonged to the Gophers women’s hockey team despite the end of its exceptional 62-game winning streak.
The longest winning streak in college hockey, women’s or men’s, had been broken, and still an announced 2,435 fans showered the Gophers with extra applause as a reminder of what had been accomplished. The streak stretched over three seasons and two calendar years, and included a 41-0 national championship run.
The gratitude pierced the initial disappointment of Gophers senior captain Bethany Brausen and brought to life the significance of the moment.
Gophers coach Brad Frost paused in the tunnel leading to the locker room to soak in the moment and feat just a little longer.
Junior defenseman Rachel Ramsey forgot about the loss for a moment as Gophers fans overpowered UND’s celebration.
“You look around and you’ve got thousands of people telling you that they still love you even though you did lose that game, kind of giving a testament to the streak,” Brausen said. “What a special feeling. That cheer, that might have been as special as a cheer after a big win.”
UND scored all its goals in the first period, all by freshmen who said they didn’t know much about the Gophers’ nationally hyped streak. Kayla Gardner, Gracen Hirschy and Susanna Tapani scored the goals in a six-minute span to produce a commanding 3-0 lead.
The Gophers appeared deflated when leaving the ice for the first intermission, but recovered quickly in the second period. Ramsey scored on the power play 1:50 in and Sarah Davis added another power-play goal seven minutes later.
The momentum carried into the third period as the Gophers continued to apply pressure and create chances around the net. North Dakota freshman goaltender Lexie Shaw survived the Gophers’ attack in the final minutes, though, and secured the upset with 32 saves.
It’s the Gophers’ first loss since Feb. 17, 2012, a 2-1 overtime loss to UND at Ridder Arena.
Frost commended his team for its comeback effort, while also remembering how to critique his team after a loss. Then his emotions got the best of him.
“Our team made history,” a teary-eyed Frost said. “For everyone that has been a part of it, it’s been a real special thing. I think they helped grow the game of women’s hockey here in Minnesota and nationwide, and that’s a huge testament to them.
“There was a lot of pressure, a lot of media attention, a lot of excitement every time we stepped onto the ice, which was great. But it’s over.”
North Dakota coach Brian Idalski told Frost he thought the Gophers’ accomplishment likely never will be duplicated.
The same could be said for much of what the Gophers program has achieved. It has five national championships, including four NCAA titles and each of the past two. The Gophers’ talent has produced 27 All-America awards, two Patty Kazmaier Awards for national player of the year and seven Olympians.
Now they can add longest winning streak in college hockey, 62 games, to the list.