Gophers get perfect season with NCAA women's title
- Article by: DAVE CAMPBELL
- Associated Press
- March 24, 2013 - 7:14 PM
MINNEAPOLIS - This wasn't just another title game. Minnesota had the sport's first perfect season in sight.
This women's hockey championship even generated enough buzz to produce a few ticket scalpers outside.
Amanda Kessel scored twice, and the Gophers beat Boston University 6-3 on Sunday to become the first undefeated team in the 13-year history of NCAA women's hockey.
"We made the impossible possible," Kessel said. "It goes to everyone on our team. It's not just one or two people."
Mira Jalosuo, Hannah Brandt, Milica McMillen and Rachel Ramsey also scored for the Gophers (41-0), who won their second straight national championship — and fourth overall — and stretched their record winning streak to 49 games. Their last loss was to North Dakota on Feb. 17, 2012, more than 13 months ago.
"I don't think a lot of us focused on the record, which was nice," defender Megan Bozek said. "There was a bigger task at hand. It was just great that our nerves didn't get the best of us."
Sarah Lefort, Marie-Philip Poulin and Jenelle Kohanchuk had goals for the Terriers (28-6-3), whose 10-game winning streak ended. They also lost in the title game in 2011.
Three Western Collegiate Hockey Association teams have won all 13 championships. Minnesota Duluth has five and Wisconsin has four.
Noora Raty made 21 saves for the Gophers, who never trailed after needing overtime to outlast Boston College in the semifinals and triple overtime to top North Dakota in the quarterfinals. This was more like most of Minnesota's regular season matchups. The Gophers trailed in only a handful of games while cruising through the WCHA.
Now they've made a convincing case as the best team ever in this young sport. Wisconsin went 36-1-4 in 2007 and 37-2-2 in 2011 to win national titles, but never has one school dominated from October through March quite like this Minnesota bunch.
Raty, the senior from Finland, proudly held up her jersey No. 41 — matching her team's win total — at the podium for the news conference afterward. She never gave up more than three goals this season and only did so three times.
Kessel, who won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award on Saturday as the top player in the country, added two assists. Maryanne Menefee had three helpers, and Ramsey had two. McMillen might've had the most impressive sequence of the afternoon when she hustled back to thwart a short-handed breakaway by BU late in the second period. McMillen stole the puck, sent it back to Minnesota's offensive zone and polished off the power play by one-timing a slap shot past goalie Kerrin Sperry for a 4-1 lead with 12 seconds remaining before the intermission.
Jalosuo scored on a power play and Brandt had a short-handed goal in the first period to put the Gophers in front. Ramsey scored in the final frame to add to the cushion and Kessel fittingly capped her performance with an empty-netter.
BU coach Brian Durocher noted that three of Minnesota's first four goals were one-timed shots.
"You could put a bucket of pucks out there, and there are lot of people who couldn't hit one one-timer in that situation," Durocher said. "We were making the plays, but they made better ones."
Kessel, the brother of Toronto Maple Leafs star Phil Kessel, finished her junior year with 46 goals and 55 assists. Raty and Bozek were the other finalists for the Kazmaier honor. Raty received the Most Outstanding Player award for the NCAA tournament.
The capacity crowd of 3,400 at cozy Ridder Arena, home ice for the Gophers, chanted "Perfect season! Perfect season!" as the final seconds ticked down before the entire Gophers team flung helmets and sticks in the air on the way to pile on Raty in celebration in front of the net. The game sold out weeks ago.
"I heard $150," Durocher said about the market price. "I was nervous maybe my assistant coaches were going to be out there on the street," Durocher said, deadpanning. "Thankfully, they were on the bench. We don't have any violations to report."
Gophers coach Brad Frost couldn't stop praising the atmosphere.
"It's very surreal. I'll probably have to pinch myself when I acutally get back home and put my head on the pillow," he said.
The Terriers, who set a program record for single-season wins, tried their best to appreciate what they did to get this far and give the Minnesota machine at least some moments of tension.
"That's a testament to the heart in our locker room," captain Jill Cardella said, praising Kaleigh Fratkin's blocked shot in the closing seconds as one of many examples of BU's relentlessness. "That pretty much tells the whole story."
Poulin, who finished with 19 goals and 36 assists this season, took a slap shot by Bozek off her kneecap early in the game and hobbled off the ice only to return for her next shift. Bozek, smiling, said Poulin got her back on the ankle a little later.
"We're all proud of each other," a teary-eyed Poulin said, "and we stood up together."
The Gophers were just too good.
"They earned what they got," Durocher said. "Great team. I tip my cap to them. ... It's not easy to go with a zero in two columns."
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