DULUTH - It's usually said that goaltenders need to have exceptionally short memories, so they aren't haunted by the pucks that have gotten past them. Noora Raty never forgot two of her biggest disappointments -- and while that doesn't conform to conventional hockey wisdom, no one is disputing the result.
The Gophers goalie got motivated for the NCAA title game against Wisconsin by reflecting on a WCHA playoff loss to the Badgers in 2011. A week earlier, before the Gophers' NCAA tournament opener, she thought about a mistake she made in last year's NCAA quarterfinal loss against Boston College. The junior from Finland capped her season Sunday by stopping 42 shots, giving the Gophers their third NCAA championship in the biggest victory of her career.
Raty slammed the gate shut on the Badgers with a whole reel of highlight-quality saves. She gave up only five goals in seven postseason games, including three shutouts in the WCHA playoffs. Raty, who led NCAA Division I with a goals-against average of 1.33 this season, stopped 62 of 65 shots in her Frozen Four victories over Cornell and the Badgers.
By forcing herself to recall unhappy memories, Raty said, she put herself into a championship frame of mind -- and came away with something even bigger than the bronze medal she won with Finland at the 2010 Olympics.
"This actually feels better [than the Olympic medal]," Raty said. "I love this team more than any national team I've been part of.''
Raty finished the season with a school-record 33 victories and 10 shutouts. She was named the most outstanding player of the tournament, which did not surprise her grateful teammates.
"I've said it time and time again, I think she's the best goalie in the world,'' Gophers captain Sarah Erickson said. "She was making every single save you could imagine. That's what we expect from her. We don't always give her credit, but she expects that from herself.''
Raty made many of her best saves in the second and third periods, when she stopped all 34 shots she faced. On one sequence, she stoned all three players on the Badgers' top line while lying in the goal crease.
"She was dang good in the third period,'' coach Brad Frost said. "Noora's been on a run over the last month that is as good as I can believe any goaltender has ever been on.''