To cheers, U women's hockey closing in on perfection

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 22, 2013 - 12:06 PM

Led by three of the nation’s best players, the Gophers have taken their loyalists and growing bandwagon on an extraordinary ride.

A perfect Gophers hockey season and an invitation to this weekend’s Women’s Frozen Four hung in suspense through three overtimes last Saturday, long enough that the man known affectionately as “Crazy Dave” finally had to sit down.

David Malerich has been to nearly every Gophers home game for 16 years, spending most of that time on his feet, cheering. But as he said, “The players weren’t the only ones exhausted.”

John Munson, who played bass guitar for the band Semisonic, couldn’t make the game at Ridder Arena but was glued to his phone, waiting for text updates from his wife. He heaved a sigh of relief when the Gophers finally prevailed over North Dakota 3-2 in the NCAA quarterfinals.

Led by three of the nation’s best players ­— Noora Raty, Amanda Kessel and Megan Bozek — the Gophers have taken their loyalists and growing bandwagon on an extraordinary ride. They are 39-0, with a 47-game winning streak dating to last season, heading into Friday’s 5 p.m. NCAA semifinal against Boston College at the U of M’s Ridder Arena.

Boston University plays Mercyhurst in the other semifinal, and the winners advance to Sunday’s title game.

The Gophers have a chance to become the first Division 1 women’s hockey team to finish a season undefeated. No men’s hockey team has done it since Cornell went 29-0 in 1970.

“I’m also a Gophers basketball die-hard, and their season has been so dismaying for longtime fans,” Munson said. “The women’s hockey team truly feels like the antidote I need so I don’t feel so bad.”

Fans flock despite challenges

It’s still an unsung story. While almost all the Gophers men’s hockey games are televised, only one women’s game has been on TV this season. Minnesota could make history this weekend, but the Women’s Frozen Four won’t be televised.

The Gophers’ success has driven an attendance spike. They averaged 932 fans at their first eight home games, then 2,375 fans over their next 13. Both Frozen Four sessions at the 3,400-seat Ridder Arena were sold out even before Saturday’s three-overtime scare in the NCAA quarterfinals.

Over the years, Gophers coach Brad Frost has called his program the best-kept secret in town. But he said several people have told him they were there Saturday and now plan to buy season tickets.

“I think that secret is getting out,” he said.

Win or lose this weekend, the Gophers know they’ll have at least one celebration. The winner of this year’s Patty Kazmaier Award, given to the nation’s top player, will be announced Saturday morning. All three finalists are Gophers — Kessel, Raty and Bozek.

Kessel is the NCAA’s leading scorer, with 44 goals and 53 assists. Raty leads the nation with a 0.88 goals against average. And Bozek is the nation’s second leading scoring defenseman, with 20 goals and 35 assists.

Those three were instrumental last year, when the Gophers won their first national championship since 2005. This year, they’ve helped Minnesota rewrite the NCAA record book. In women’s hockey, the previous longest unbeaten streak was Wisconsin’s 32-gamer, which ended in 2011.

Along for the ride

“Even though [the Gophers] won the national championship last year, absolutely nobody saw this coming,” said Malerich, who has been to 37 of the 47 games during the winning streak, including road trips to Minnesota Duluth, Ohio State and New Hampshire.

Malerich, 38, works as a data analyst at Best Buy’s corporate headquarters. He started attending women’s games in 1997, during the program’s inaugural season, when one of his high school classmates from Buffalo, Julie Otto, was a team captain.

  • related content

  • Here's why the Gophers women's hockey team has been so dominant

    Thursday March 21, 2013

    Here are five reasons why the Gophers have been dominant this season.

  • Women's Frozen Four won't be on TV

    Sunday March 24, 2013

    The Gophers women’s hockey team could make history this weekend at the Women’s Frozen Four, but the event won’t be...

  • Preview: Women's Frozen Four semifinals

    Friday March 22, 2013

    ncaa semifinalsGophers vs. Boston College, 5 P.M. mercyhurst vs. boston university 8 p.m. ridder ARENA • sold out Video stream...

  • Gophers women's hockey players celebrate a goal, which turned out to be disallowed, during Saturday's WCHA Final Faceoff victory over North Dakota. The Gophers won 2-0 and the teams play again Saturday in the NCAA quarterfinals.

  • The Gophers women huddled in celebration after defeating the University of North Dakota and advancing to the Frozen Four this weekend at Ridder Arena.

  • Super fan David Malerich cheered on his Gophers as they took the ice last week. Malerich has been to nearly every Gophers home game for 16 years.

  • WOMEN’S FROZEN FOUR

    Semifinals: Gophers vs. Boston College, 5 p.m. Friday;

    Boston University vs. Mercyhurst, 8 p.m. Friday.

    Title game: Semifinal winners at 3 p.m. Sunday.

    All games at Ridder Arena, U of M. All sessions are sold out.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cincinnati - M. Leake 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota - T. May 6:05 PM
Baltimore - M. Gonzalez
NY Yankees - C. Capuano 6:07 PM
Toronto - M. Buehrle
Philadelphia - D. Buchanan 6:10 PM
NY Mets - J. deGrom
Boston - A. Ranaudo 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - C. Archer
Miami - T. Koehler 6:35 PM
Atlanta - E. Santana
Cleveland - D. Salazar 7:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Vargas
Detroit - J. Verlander 7:10 PM
Chicago WSox - S. Carroll
Texas - S. Baker 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Oberholtzer
Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks 7:15 PM
St. Louis - S. Miller
Colorado - C. Bergman 8:40 PM
Arizona - J. Collmenter
Oakland - J. Lester 9:05 PM
LA Angels - J. Weaver
Los Angeles - D. Haren 9:10 PM
San Diego - A. Cashner
Washington - J. Zimmermann 9:10 PM
Seattle - F. Hernandez
Milwaukee - W. Peralta 9:15 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Houston 7:00 PM
Sporting Kansas City
Ottawa 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 9:00 PM
Phoenix
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pm
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pm
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. TBA
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Gophers in their season opener

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close