Gophers women's hockey team is more than perfect in 2013

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 25, 2013 - 8:52 AM

The record-shattering winning streak was over, but the applause wouldn’t end. Gophers hockey captain Bethany Brausen couldn’t get over the noise pouring down from the crowd of 3,105 at Ridder Arena.

On Nov. 17, her team’s comeback had fallen short in a 3-2 loss to North Dakota. A 62-game winning streak that included two NCAA titles and a perfect season was history.

But all the expected sadness and dejection soon dissipated. The pressure was gone — for the players, coaches, fans — and it turned into a celebration. The cheers kept coming, reaching a crescendo as the Gophers did a ceremonial stick salute at mid-ice.

“When I saw how happy people were at the end … I think that’s when I knew how big it was,” Brausen said.

It was big enough to capture the whole state’s attention, especially during March, when the Gophers survived two overtime scares in the NCAA tournament to complete a magical 41-0 season.

When the Star Tribune went to pick its 2013 Sportsperson of the Year, the staff knew this was a team worth honoring. But it was tough picking an individual from a group bursting with talent.

Never before had one team produced all three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Award, which goes to the top player in women’s college hockey. The Gophers not only had the award’s winner in 100-point scorer Amanda Kessel, but they also boasted the nation’s top goaltender, Noora Raty, and best defenseman, Megan Bozek.

Then there’s coach Brad Frost, who won his second NCAA title in 2013 and has this year’s team off to a 19-1 start. This season’s Gophers barely have skipped a beat even with five players from last year’s team training for the Olympics — Kessel, Bozek and defenseman Lee Stecklein for Team USA, and Raty and defenseman Mira Jalosuo for Finland.
.

“I think you need to give a shout-out to Brad Frost and his assistant coaches,” University President Eric Kaler said. “It’s just remarkable to have a winning streak that long. I joke there’s nothing that I can do 62 times without screwing it up, especially in hockey.”

For the Star Tribune, this Sportsperson of the Year dilemma was reminiscent of 2006, when the Twins had an MVP (Justin Morneau), Cy Young winner (Johan Santana) and batting champion (Joe Mauer). That award went to the entire Twins organization.

It remained the only time since the award debuted in 1998 that more than one individual was honored — until this year, with Frost’s Gophers.

One bad break and poof goes the streak

Frost used to call his team “the best-kept secret in town.” Last season, coming off their first NCAA title since 2005, the Gophers drew an average of 801 fans for their first seven home games.

This season, in their first seven home games, that average has more than tripled, to 2,471. Of course, some pretty special things happened in between those windows of time.

Frost still goes back to the first speech he gave his players last season, when he insisted that at some point they would lose a game. He wanted them focused on the process, not the results.

They won their last eight games en route to the 2012 NCAA title, and by last Christmas the winning streak stood at 28. But even then, a perfect season seemed far-fetched.

“I don’t think the players even believed we could do it,” Raty said. “Maybe until the playoffs started, when we realized we had to go undefeated to win another championship.”

By February, the Gophers surpassed the longest unbeaten streaks in NCAA women’s (32 games for Wisconsin) and men’s hockey history (38 games for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute). And they weren’t just winning. Heading into the NCAA tournament, they had outscored their opponents 204-29.

“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.”

After being held without a point in the semifinals, Kessel looked like her old self in the title game, notching two goals and two assists in the 6-3 victory over Boston University.

During the celebration, Frost kept looking up at the crowd. Scalpers outside Ridder Arena were getting $65 per ticket, more than 10 times face value.

“It felt like fans were hanging from the rafters,” Frost said. “It was incredible how many people they got into that 3,400-seat facility.”

And now the page turns

It was tough to see the game if you weren’t there, since it wasn’t televised. The only live video came courtesy of NCAA.com. In that sense, women’s hockey still has a long way to go.

Frost is serving on a committee that is focused on getting future NCAA championship games on television. Meanwhile, his team is right back atop the national rankings at the halfway point of a new season.

“I feel like we have a blueprint for success in the way we do things and the way we treat our student-athletes,” Frost said. “But we’re so much younger, and Noora Raty isn’t in net, and Megan Bozek isn’t anchoring the blue line, and Amanda Kessel isn’t scoring 100 points.

“What’s interesting about this team is, even though it’s different, we now have many other kids stepping up and providing great leadership.”

The day the streak ended, Bozek watched on a computer, sitting alongside the Lamoureux twins — her North Dakota rivals and U.S. Olympic teammates, who spent one season with the Gophers before transferring. Bozek said she wasn’t surprised to see this year’s Gophers keep the streak alive for an additional 13 games.

“They have leaders in every class, whether it’s freshman Dani Cameranesi or Hannah Brandt, the sophomore with 100 points,” Bozek said. “The talent, the skill, it’s there for them. The new streak started the day after that.”

Indeed, since then the Gophers have rolled off a six-game winning streak. Attendance hasn’t suffered.

“When they finally lost, in a weird way I felt like I was finally able to breathe again at their games,” said John Munson, a local musician who has become one of the team’s biggest fans.

Frost’s team remains focused on a three-peat. And if that sounds tough, so did finishing 41-0 last season.

“I thought it was impossible,” Kessel said. “We made the impossible possible.”

















 

  • related content

  • Video: Sportsperson of the Year: U women's hockey

    Tuesday December 24, 2013

    The Gophers women's hockey team won 62 straight games and the national championship.

  • Photo gallery: Sportsperson of the Year

    Tuesday December 24, 2013

    The Gophers women's hockey team is the Star Tribune 2013 Sportsperson of the Year.

  • Past Sportsperson of the Year winners

    Tuesday December 24, 2013

    2012: Adrian Peterson Rushed for 2,097 yards, second most in NFL history, and was named the league’s MVP, leading the...

  • 2012-13 Gophers women's hockey roster

    Tuesday December 24, 2013

    No. Name Pos. Ht. Yr. Hometown (high school/last team)2 Lee Stecklein D 5-11 Fr. Roseville (Roseville)3 Samantha Downey F 5-9 Sr. Silver Bay (Proctor-Hermantown-Marshall)4 Becky Kortum F 5-7 Sr. Minnetonka (Hopkins)5 Rachel Ramsey D 6-0 So. Chanhassen (Minnetonka)6 Katie Frischmann F/D 5-5 Sr. Rochester (Minnesota Thoroughbreds)7 Mira Jalosuo D 6-0 Sr. Lieksa, Finland (Finnish national...

  • Chart: The Gophers women's hockey team's 41-0 2012-13 season

    Tuesday December 24, 2013

    Sept. 9: Gophers 11, Colgate 0, Ridder ArenaOct. 5: Gophers 7, St. Cloud State 0*, Ridder ArenaOct. 6: Gophers...

  • The Gophers turned their celebration into a pile of smiles after they beat Boston for the NCAA championship last March in Ridder Arena. That made it a 41-0 season, a run of perfection that continued to grow.

  • Amanda Kessel (8) exited the 2012-13 season with a trophy held high and more. She scored more than 100 points and won the Patty Kazmaier Award as the top player in women’s college hockey.

  • Coach Brad Frost used to call his team “the best-kept secret in town,” but attendance is way up.

  • From left, Amanda Kessel, Megan Bozek and Noora Raty were the three Kazmaier Award finalists.

  • When the team gathers on the Ridder Arena ice, signs of success hang above. “We have a blueprint for success,” coach Brad Frost said.

  • The Gophers’ Kelly Terry jammed the winning goal past North Dakota’s Shelby Amsley-Benzie late in the third overtime of the NCAA quarterfinal, and perfection was preserved once again.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - LP: B. Wilson 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Grimm 8
Detroit - WP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 2
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 3 FINAL
Oakland - LP: D. Otero 0
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 6 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: C. Capuano 3
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
Colorado - WP: E. Butler 5
Boston - LP: R. De La Rosa 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman 7
Milwaukee - WP: Z. Duke 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: M. Melancon 0
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: J. Cosart 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 2
Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: C. Archer 3
Cleveland - WP: T. House 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: T. May 3
Seattle - LP: C. Young 1 FINAL
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 10
Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Motte 8
San Francisco - LP: Y. Petit 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: A. Cashner 3
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 5 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: J. Weaver 8
San Diego 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(21) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
(18) Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
Miss State 34 FINAL
(8) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(14) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(24) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
(22) Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Vancouver FC 0 FINAL
Portland 3
Houston 0 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
New England 0 FINAL
Columbus 1
San Jose 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
Seattle 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 4
D.C. 3 FINAL
Chicago 3
FC Dallas 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
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 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.
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: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close