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

Team Irvin 7:15 PM
Team Carter
Miami 12:00 PM
Chicago
Oklahoma City 2:30 PM
Cleveland
Dallas 5:00 PM
New Orleans
Indiana 5:00 PM
Orlando
LA Clippers 5:00 PM
Phoenix
Minnesota 5:00 PM
Atlanta
Detroit 6:00 PM
Toronto
Milwaukee 6:00 PM
San Antonio
Boston 7:00 PM
Golden State
Washington 7:00 PM
Denver
Houston 8:30 PM
LA Lakers
Team Toews 4:00 PM
Team Foligno
South Florida 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 12:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Virginia 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Indiana 12:30 PM
Ohio State
Stony Brook 1:00 PM
Binghamton
Cincinnati 1:00 PM
UCF
Maine 1:00 PM
Hartford
Monmouth 1:00 PM
Manhattan
Fairfield 1:00 PM
Marist
Rowan 1:00 PM
Princeton
St Bonaventure 1:00 PM
Rhode Island
Duke 1:00 PM
St Johns
Saint Peters 1:00 PM
Siena
Drake 1:00 PM
Wichita State
Vermont 1:00 PM
UMass Lowell
Seton Hall 2:00 PM
Butler
NJIT 2:05 PM
South Alabama
Northern Iowa 3:00 PM
Illinois State
Louisville 3:00 PM
Pittsburgh
UMBC 3:30 PM
Albany
Niagara 3:30 PM
Iona
Notre Dame 5:30 PM
NC State
Belmont 5:30 PM
Tennessee St
Creighton 6:00 PM
Villanova
Northwestern 6:30 PM
Maryland
Washington 7:30 PM
Utah
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 11:00 AM
Georgetown
St Johns 11:00 AM
Villanova
Arkansas 11:00 AM
Florida
Maine 12:00 PM
UMBC
Vanderbilt 12:00 PM
Alabama
Lafayette 12:00 PM
Lehigh
UCF 1:00 PM
SMU
Utah 1:00 PM
Washington
James Madison 1:00 PM
Coll of Charleston
Delaware 1:00 PM
Drexel
Hofstra 1:00 PM
William & Mary
Hartford 1:00 PM
Albany
Binghamton 1:00 PM
Stony Brook
Towson 1:00 PM
UNC-Wilmington
Wake Forest 1:00 PM
(17) Florida State
Georgia Tech 1:00 PM
Virginia
(22) Georgia 1:00 PM
(5) Tennessee
Drake 1:00 PM
Evansville
Iona 1:00 PM
Canisius
Fairfield 1:00 PM
Monmouth
Northwestern 1:00 PM
Penn State
Wisconsin 1:00 PM
Michigan State
Ohio State 1:00 PM
Purdue
Northern Iowa 1:05 PM
Indiana State
Butler 1:30 PM
Xavier
Creighton 2:00 PM
Marquette
Providence 2:00 PM
DePaul
Northeastern 2:00 PM
Elon
(2) Connecticut 2:00 PM
Cincinnati
Oregon 2:00 PM
Arizona
Bradley 2:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago
NC State 2:00 PM
(23) Syracuse
(7) Maryland 2:00 PM
Indiana
Illinois State 2:05 PM
Missouri State
Colorado 3:00 PM
Washington St
Tulane 3:00 PM
South Florida
(14) Kentucky 3:00 PM
Missouri
(9) Oregon State 3:00 PM
(13) Arizona State
Vermont 3:30 PM
UMass Lowell
Iowa State 3:30 PM
(8) Texas
Southern Ill 3:45 PM
Wichita State
(15) Duke 4:00 PM
(12) North Carolina
Miami-Florida 4:00 PM
(4) Louisville
(21) Minnesota 4:15 PM
(25) Rutgers
California 5:00 PM
UCLA
(11) Stanford 7:00 PM
USC
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Do you favor the plan for expanded athletic facilities at the U of M?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close