The Gophers women’s hockey team might lose another game someday, but that would require — you know — actually giving up a goal.
This hasn’t happened in five games.
Senior goaltender Noora Raty worked her usual magic Friday night, and freshman winger Maryanne Menefee scored two goals, as the Gophers breezed past Ohio State 5-0 at Ridder Arena in the semifinals of the WCHA Final Face-Off.
The Gophers (37-0) will face North Dakota in Saturday night’s championship, riding a streak of 320 minutes and 56 seconds without giving up a goal.
“Similar to the [winning] streak, when you’re in the midst of it, you don’t think about it a whole lot,” Gophers coach Brad Frost said. “But we know that in order to win a championship, you have to defend well.”
The Gophers have won 45 consecutive games since losing to North Dakota on Feb. 17, 2012, and Minnesota hasn’t given up a goal since Feb. 16 against Bemidji State.
The Gophers actually fell behind 2-1 early in the third period versus the Beavers that game, but pulled out a 3-2 thriller at home in overtime.
“I didn’t play my best that game,” said Raty, who knows the importance of limiting her postseason mistakes. “I think it comes down to who has the best goaltender, and the team that has that is going to win the championship.”
The Gophers are scoring an average of 5.5 goals per game and allowing 0.78.
Since the overtime game, they’ve blanked St. Cloud State twice, Bemidji State twice and now Ohio State. Minnesota has 20 shutouts this season, 16 by Raty and three by freshman goalie Amanda Leveille.
Raty made 24 saves against the Buckeyes, increasing her NCAA career shutout record to 42.
The Gophers grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Menefee and Hannah Brandt. Mira Jalosuo made it 3-0 in the second period, and Minnesota added third-period goals by Menefee and Megan Bozek.
Ohio State (19-15-3) had some chances, but Becky Kortum and Meghan Lorence were among those who blocked key shots. Raty stymied all the rest.
“Tonight was a great example of our team paying the price to be a championship team by blocking shots, giving that little extra effort,” Bozek said.
In the other semifinal, North Dakota used 26 saves from freshman goalie Shelby Amsley-Benzie to defeat Wisconsin 2-1. It was just UND’s fourth victory in 42 games against the Badgers.
The Badgers’ loss could end their season. When the eight-team NCAA field is announced Sunday, the WCHA could land just two berths — Minnesota’s and North Dakota’s. The Gophers have trailed in a game just four times all season, twice against North Dakota.
The Badgers are 23-10-2, and just like North Dakota (26-10-1), four of those losses came against the Gophers.
Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson noted the irony: “Minnesota going undefeated hurts our league. They had a special season, and hats off to them, but that hurts the other teams.”