HAMDEN, CONN. – After falling just short of their third consecutive NCAA title Sunday, the Gophers weren’t ready to start discussing next season. But it’s worth noting that the 2015 Women’s Frozen Four will be back in Minnesota, at Ridder Arena.
Will the Gophers be back? That’s a pretty good bet, especially with two Olympians set to rejoin the program next year in Amanda Kessel and Lee Stecklein.
The team’s first thoughts after the 5-4 championship-game loss to Clarkson were with the four departing seniors — Bethany Brausen, Kelly Terry, Sarah Davis and Baylee Gillanders — a group that did plenty of winning before Sunday.
In their four years, the Gophers went 139-17-5, with two national championships, a runner-up finish and a loss in the 2011 NCAA quarterfinals.
Brausen was a two-time captain and an invaluable role player. Terry had 22 goals and 32 assists this season, including two assists Sunday. Davis finished with 20 goals and 29 assists, and Gillanders scored in both Frozen Four games.
“I like to hope that we made our mark on the program,” Terry said. “I think all four of us bring a different thing to the table. We try to lead by example, we lead vocally. Our up-and-coming senior class, they’re all amazing people as well.”
Next year’s seniors include Kessel, who won the Patty Kazmaier Award last year, and All-America defenseman Rachel Ramsey. Two other big scorers in that current junior class are Rachael Bona (23 goals, 38 assists) and Meghan Lorence (18 goals, 17 assists).
Next year’s junior class includes Stecklein, Kazmaier finalist Hannah Brandt (23 goals, 42 assists), second-team All-America defenseman Milica McMillen and goalie Amanda Leveille, who ranked second in the nation in goals-against average.
The Gophers received good production this season from freshmen Dani Cameranesi (19 goals, 17 assists) and Kate Schipper (seven goals, 21 assists).
And there is more firepower coming. Next year’s incoming freshman class includes Sydney Baldwin, a defenseman from Minnetonka and Ms. Hockey winner this year, and Kelly Pannek, who had 99 points this season for Benilde St. Margaret’s.
Gophers coach Brad Frost was philosophical after Sunday’s loss, saying as badly as his team wanted to win, it succeeded just by fulfilling its core values and “leaving it all on the ice.”
“Tonight, the big scoreboard said that we lost,” Frost said. “I would tell you that we won all year. This was an incredible team, with an incredible group of four seniors that helped change the culture of our program.”
Brandt and Bona were named to the Frozen Four all-tournament team, along with four players from Clarkson: forward Jamie Lee Rattray, defensemen Renata Fast and Shelby Nisbet and goaltender Erica Howe.