Gophers are champs again by combining toughness, skill

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 19, 2012 - 6:37 AM

The Gophers, getting outstanding play from their goalie, claimed their first NCAA crown since 2005 by beating the defending national champion.

view larger photos


DULUTH - As he began making plans for this season, coach Brad Frost knew the Gophers possessed enough talent to win their third NCAA women's hockey championship. He also knew that talent alone wouldn't get it done.

Frost set out four values he wanted his team to embody: toughness, gratitude, discipline and devotion. Sunday, in the final seconds of a 4-2 victory over Wisconsin, he felt the tears well in his eyes at a job well done. The second-ranked Gophers demonstrated all the qualities Frost asked of them throughout the season, culminating in an epic title game that gave them their first NCAA title since 2005.

Emily West scored the winning goal on a penalty shot with 1 minute, 32 seconds remaining in the first period at Amsoil Arena. Goaltender Noora Raty took over from there, stopping 42 shots in a magnificent performance that earned her the award as the most outstanding player of the Frozen Four.

The top-ranked Badgers, defending champs and winners of four of the past six titles, outshot the Gophers 44-25. But after they rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie the score, Raty shut them out over the final 44:17. As Frost embraced his colleagues on the bench, his players tossed their sticks and helmets into the air, celebrating a season that put them in the company of the Gophers' title teams of 2004 and 2005.

"We're so happy to bring the trophy back,'' said Frost, who won his first NCAA championship in his fifth season as head coach. "It feels like it's been a long time.

"When it was 3-2, I wasn't sure it was going to hold up. Then we got back to our strengths. We've been the best defensive team in the country all year, and I think that showed. Overall, it was a great hockey game.''

The Gophers and Badgers put on a terrific show in a fitting end to the season. They showed why the WCHA has won all 12 NCAA women's hockey titles, with a fast, ferocious and closely contested game that had 2,439 fans roaring throughout.

Gophers forward Amanda Kessel, a Madison native itching to play her hometown team for the championship, opened the scoring at 8:45 of the first period. Sarah Erickson's goal made it 2-0 before the Badgers beat Raty twice in the span of 1:40 late in the period.

The Gophers were called for five penalties to the Badgers' two, including back-to-back infractions that gave Wisconsin a two-man advantage for 1:02 near the end of the first period. While the Badgers couldn't score, West got the game-winner with teammate Kelly Terry still in the penalty box. Wisconsin also failed to score on two power-play opportunities in the final two periods.

The Badgers finished their season with a 33-5-2 record and an empty feeling in their stomachs. The Gophers finished 34-5-2, won a WCHA playoff crown to go with their NCAA title and earned a 3-1-1 mark against their cross-border rivals.

"It's a tough pill to swallow,'' Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson said. "I thought we battled. We made a few mistakes in some situations and didn't execute in others. The overall effort was there, but we needed a break or a bounce at some point. And we didn't get it.''

Their biggest blunder came when Wisconsin's Brittany Haverstock tripped West on a breakaway, giving her a penalty shot. She sized up Badgers goalie Alex Rigsby, lured her in with a fake and scored into the open right side of the net.

West celebrated with a Lambeau-style leap into the Gophers' bench. Raty made sure they would have a larger celebration later, stopping 34 shots in the final two periods to give the Gophers the title that had eluded them for so long.

"To end as a senior on this note, it's kind of like a Cinderella story,'' Erickson said. "We've come up short every year. This was fun. This is what we play for.''

  • related content

  • Gophers goalie saves her best for last

    Sunday March 18, 2012

    Noora Raty, who had a showcase Frozen Four, shut down Wisconsin in the last two periods, stopping 34 shots.

  • 2012 NCAA Women's Frozen Four Hockey Tournament Minnesota Gophers vs....


  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


St. Louis 5
Pittsburgh 4 FINAL
Minnesota 2
St. Louis 1 FINAL
Washington 1
Boston - LP: C. Buchholz 2 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran 4
NY Yankees 10 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
Tampa Bay 0 Cancelled
Baltimore 0
Detroit 1 FINAL
Toronto 4
Chicago WSox 3 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 6
Texas 6 FINAL
Oakland 7
Cleveland 2 FINAL
Arizona 3
Arizona 7 FINAL
LA Angels 2
Miami 0 Cancelled
Houston 0
Seattle - LP: J. Paxton 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 5
San Francisco 8 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Colorado 5 FINAL
San Diego 7
Milwaukee 8 FINAL
Cincinnati 6
Detroit 111 FINAL
Orlando 97
LA Clippers 119 FINAL
Philadelphia 98
Charlotte 107 FINAL
Washington 110
Boston 96 FINAL
New York 92
Cleveland 98 FINAL
Brooklyn 106
LA Lakers 83 FINAL
Toronto 94
Miami 86 FINAL
Atlanta 99
Golden State 107 FINAL
Memphis 84
Sacramento 88 FINAL
New Orleans 102
Minnesota 110 FINAL
Houston 120
Dallas 76 FINAL
San Antonio 94
Utah 91 FINAL
Denver 107
Portland 87 FINAL
Phoenix 81
Calgary 2 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 5 FINAL
Chicago 2
Dallas 0 FINAL
Edmonton 4
Gonzaga 74
NC State 65 FINAL
Louisville 75
Utah 57 FINAL
Duke 63
Kent State 73 FINAL
Northern Ariz 74
Michigan State 62 FINAL
Oklahoma 58
(15) North Carolina 65 FINAL
(3) South Carolina 67
(18) Iowa 66 FINAL
(5) Baylor 81
(9) Arizona State 65 FINAL
(7) Florida State 66
(14) Stanford 60 FINAL
(2) Notre Dame 81
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite team in the NCAA men's hockey tournament?

Weekly Question