Page 2 of 2 Previous

Continued: Are Gophers the best women’s hockey team ever? Maybe

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: February 1, 2013 - 7:00 AM

At the University of Minnesota, just a slap shot away from Mariucci Arena and Williams Arena, there's a team that operates in the shadows of the nation's No. 1-ranked men's hockey team and two basketball programs riding roller-coaster seasons.

Gophers women's hockey coach Brad Frost has called his team "the best-kept secret in town."

They're rarely on TV, they have trouble filling seats at Ridder Arena, and their star players can float anonymously through campus. But now, a red-hot season and an assault on the national record book have fueled talk that this could be the best team in women's hockey history.

During its NCAA-record 34-game winning streak, which began last February, Minnesota has trailed just twice. The first deficit lasted 39 seconds. The second one came Jan. 12 against North Dakota. That time -- gasp! -- it took 27 minutes for the Gophers to even the score, and it was still tied 1-1 after two periods.

"Honestly, we went into our coaches room after that period and were like, 'This is fantastic,'" Frost said. "We needed it. Last year, the season was full of adversity. And this year, we just haven't faced a ton of it."

The Gophers burst from their locker room and scored five third-period goals against UND, including two by the nation's leading scorer, Amanda Kessel. They haven't trailed since.

After winning their final eight games last year to claim their first NCAA title since 2005, the Gophers are 26-0 heading into Friday night's game against Minnesota Duluth at Ridder Arena.

Minnesota's home rink, which seats 3,400, will be the site of this year's WCHA's Final Face-off, along with the Frozen Four. So the Gophers could wind up playing all but four of their remaining games at home, and it's not hard to imagine them running the table.

It's happened in several other college sports. The Baylor women's basketball team went 40-0 last season. The Cornell men's hockey team skated to a 29-0 finish in 1970. But nobody has done it in women's hockey, which began crowning an NCAA champion in 2001.

"That would definitely be something special to go undefeated the whole year," Gophers goaltender Noora Raty said. "But if we lose one or two games and still win the national championship, it would be a perfect season for us."

One game at a time

Now in his 13th season with the program, and sixth as head coach, Frost said he learned long ago not to talk about national championships during a season. The focus, he said, always should be the next game.

"One of his lines is, 'You guys aren't that good yet,'" said Gophers freshman Hannah Brandt, whose 62 points rank second in the nation behind Kessel's 75.

That might be true in theory, but they've outscored their opponents 147-20, averaging 5.7 goals per game and allowing 0.8.

Kessel, whose brother Phil played one season for the Gophers before jumping to the NHL, has become a force as a junior and likely will represent Team USA in next year's Olympics.

"She's going to be one of the best players in the world," said Raty, who made her Olympic debut as Finland's starting goaltender at age 15 in 2006. "She's the fastest player I've ever seen."

The 5-6 Kessel is just glad she doesn't have to face Raty, who notched her 100th career victory last Sunday, matching an NCAA record.

"Noora steals games for us," Kessel said. "Whenever we need a big save, she's there for us and kind of holds us together."

Throw in hard-shooting senior captain Megan Bozek, a first-team All-America defenseman, and the Gophers have plenty of star talent. Bozek hails from Buffalo Grove, Ill., Kessel from Madison, Wis., and Raty from Espoo, Finland, but the roster features 12 Minnesotans, including three Ms. Minnesota Hockey Award winners in Brandt (Hill Murray), Bethany Brausen (Roseville) and Becky Kortum (Hopkins).

"I think their staff's doing a great job," said Harvard coach Katey Stone, who will coach Team USA at the 2014 Olympics. "They're attracting some tremendous talent, they're developing it, and they have some big-time players."

Stone's Harvard squad, which is 17-2-1, is among the teams that hope to dethrone Minnesota in the NCAA tourney.

One reason the Gophers shouldn't be overconfident is they haven't faced a team this year that's currently ranked higher than eighth. After Minnesota, the rest of top seven are six teams from the East -- Boston College, Harvard, Boston University, Cornell, Clarkson and Mercyhurst.

Best ever?

If the Gophers do indeed run the table, could they go down as the best women's college hockey team of all time?

"It's a fair question," said Natalie Darwitz, a three-time Olympian who was part of NCAA title teams for the Gophers in 2004 and 2005.

"If you're a numbers person, the numbers are there and speak for themselves. I do think it's hard to compare where they're at now versus past teams."

Either way, Darwitz said, what the Gophers are doing is great for the sport.

"The frustrating part," she said, "is it took a 34-game winning streak to start people talking about it."

The Big Ten Network will broadcast Saturday afternoon's game against UMD, but that's Minnesota's only scheduled telecast this season. Last year's NCAA title game wasn't televised and this year's finale, on March 24, won't be either.

Still, Frost has been pleased with his team's increased coverage of late.

"I just don't want them to get complacent and think that they've arrived just because they've had a great first half of the season," said Frost, whose team has eight regular-season games left.

"I've seen a lot of [Gophers] teams play really well in the first half and kind of fade in the second half."

This team is showing no signs of fading. In fact, the spotlight is starting to shine bright.

  • related content

  • Video: Gophers' women's hockey team continues on a roll

    Thursday January 31, 2013

    Head coach Brad Frost and players Noora Raty and Amanda Kessel talk about the team's NCAA win streak.

  • Chart: The Gophers' perfect season so far

    Thursday January 31, 2013

    The Gophers women's hockey team won last year's NCAA championship, but this year's squad looks to be even more dominant and could stake a claim as the best team ever...

  • (left to right) Gophers Women's Hockey Head Coach Brad Frost, foward...

  • GOPHERS WOMEN VS. MINN. DULUTH

    6:07 p.m. today • Ridder Arena

    women's college hockey gophers vs. minnesota duluth • 6:07 p.m. today • ridder arena
  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Toronto - LP: D. Hutchison 2 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Tanaka 5
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 2 FINAL
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 1
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 10 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: E. Santana 2
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: M. Gonzalez 2
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 1
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Danks 10 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: N. Karns 5
Cleveland - WP: C. Kluber 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: A. Swarzak 2
Detroit - LP: R. Porcello 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie 5
Seattle - LP: H. Iwakuma 3 FINAL
Houston - WP: C. McHugh 8
Los Angeles - WP: C. Perez 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 5
Texas - WP: S. Tolleson 2 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Street 1
Philadelphia - LP: M. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Oakland - WP: S. Doolittle 8
San Francisco - LP: R. Vogelsong 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: I. Kennedy 8
Arizona - LP: W. Miley 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: C. Bergman 8
Cincinnati - WP: A. Simon 7 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: L. Lynn 2
San Diego 22 FINAL
Buffalo 10
Dallas 34 FINAL
St. Louis 31
Washington 34 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
Houston 17 FINAL
NY Giants 30
Minnesota 9 FINAL
New Orleans 20
Tennessee 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 33
Baltimore 23 FINAL
Cleveland 21
Green Bay 7 FINAL
Detroit 19
Indianapolis 44 FINAL
Jacksonville 17
Oakland 9 FINAL
New England 16
San Francisco 14 FINAL
Arizona 23
Denver 20 FINAL
Seattle 26
Kansas City 34 FINAL
Miami 15
Pittsburgh 37 FINAL
Carolina 19
Chicago 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Columbus 4 FINAL
Carolina 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Washington 1
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Calgary 1 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Edmonton 0 FINAL
Calgary 1
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(12) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(9) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
(23) East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(20) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(13) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Toronto FC 3
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35

ADVERTISEMENT

Advertisement
Golden Gavel by Star Tribune

Countdown to great deals

Bid Sept. 21-29

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close