“I’ve never seen a group of athletes dominate like they dominated,” Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague said. “I would always see the body language of other teams change when they really started rolling in games.”
But along the way, there were reminders that kept the Gophers hungry and humble. They survived a 3-2 overtime scare at Bemidji State in mid-February, with the winning goal coming from Jalosuo.
The Gophers had flown under the radar for so long that any loss last season would have cost them publicity. A 40-1 finish would have been notable, but 41-0 made them legends.
“Our streak could have ended with one more shot,” Bozek said. “It’s one bad bounce, one penalty. Even when you’re stronger than a given team, on paper, any given day anyone could have beaten us with hard work if we were getting too ahead of ourselves or putting too much pressure on ourselves.”
The road to the title ends at Ridder
The schedule presented an advantage, since the Gophers got to play their final eight games at home. This happened because the WCHA Final Face-off and NCAA Frozen Four had both been awarded to Minneapolis.
On March 9, when the Gophers defeated North Dakota 2-0 for the WCHA playoff title, it marked their sixth consecutive shutout victory. Injuries had slowed Kessel’s production, but Raty and the team’s defense looked invincible.
Still, when the eight-team NCAA tournament pairings were announced, the Gophers coaches weren’t thrilled. They had drawn North Dakota again in the quarterfinals. Having already gone 5-0 against a team that included current U.S. Olympians Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux, the Gophers needed to make it 6-0 in order to reach the Frozen Four.
“I just felt if North Dakota would have beaten us, they would have gone on to win the national championship,” Frost said. “And so the pressure finally hit us because for the first time if we would have lost, there wouldn’t have been a game the next day.”
The Gophers found themselves locked in a 2-2 tie with North Dakota for nearly three full overtimes. In sudden death, nobody faces more pressure than the goaltenders, but Raty was the coolest person at Ridder Arena.
“I wasn’t going to end my senior year by letting in a bad bounce or a bad goal,” she said.
What went through her mind?
“I remember at one point I was absolutely starving,” Raty said. “I don’t eat much before games or during games. I wanted us to score so I could go eat.”
Finally, 118 minutes and 51 seconds after the opening faceoff, Kelly Terry tapped home a rebound, sending the Gophers to the Frozen Four.
Six days later, the Gophers were right back on the brink of elimination. In the NCAA semifinals, they trailed Boston College 1-0 heading into the third period and went to overtime again, tied 2-2.
“We were joking in the locker room, ‘Well, we’ve been here before,’ ” Frost said.
Less than two minutes into the extra session, junior center Sarah Davis made a slick move in front of the net and waited for what felt like an eternity before finally shooting home the game-winner.
“I think every emotion was present there,” Bozek said. “There were people crying, laughing, smiling, just thinking that we were going back to the championship game.”