Photo: Brad Rempel, University of Minnesota
The past four days for the Gophers women’s hockey team in general and Amy Potomak in particular have been ones to savor.
On Saturday, Minnesota spotted top-ranked and defending NCAA champion a 1-0 lead before answering with two dominant periods for a 4-2 victory at Ridder Arena. Potomak had a pair of assists in the win, including one to her sister, Sarah, on a goal that began the comeback.
A day later, the Gophers and Badgers staked to a 2-2 tie, but the fun was just beginning. After a scoreless five minutes of five-on-five overtime and five more of three-on-three OT between the top two programs in women’s college hockey, the game went to shootout for the extra point in the WCHA standings. Amy Potomak decided it with a between-the-legs shot that beat Badgers goalie Kristen Campbell over her glove and sent Twitter ablaze.
Soon, ESPN’s John Buccigross, an anchor of the network’s Sunday night “SportsCenter’’ broadcast, declared he would resign if Potomak’s goal wasn’t the No. 1 play on SC’s Top 10. Buccigross did not resign.
Monday came the new U.S. College Hockey Online poll, with the Gophers (10-1-1) ascending from No. 2 to No. 1 and sending Wisconsin (10-1-1) back a spot.
Tuesday, Potomak’s goal was named top play of the weekend by NCAA hockey. She followed that up by scoring the first goal in the Gophers’ 9-0 exhibition win over Hamline at Ridder Arena.
Potomak met the media Tuesday afternoon and took all the sudden attention in stride.
“A lot of Twitter notifications. And a lot of Instagram notifications,’’ the sophomore from Aldergrove, British Columbia, said. “We don’t have cable at our house, so I didn’t see [the replay] a lot.’’
Potomak said she practiced the between-the-legs shot while growing up and playing with her four brothers. She’d also seen William Karlsson of Vegas Golden Knight use it.
“I didn’t think I’d ever try on a big stage, especially against a team like Wisconsin,’’ Potomak said. “Actually, Frosty was the one who suggested I give it a shot.’’
Frosty is Gophers coach Brad Frost, who explained his suggestion this way:
“I told her to do it, but I didn’t teach her to do that, I’ll tell you that,’’ Frost said. “… I just had a feeling if she did it, it would be really hard to stop.’’
Potomak shook off any doubts about the shot.
“Well, I guess since Frosty and [assistant coach] Bethany [Brausen] just looked at me and believed in me that I could do it, my confidence rose a bit there,’’ she said. “ … I remember thinking, ‘Man, what if I do score?’ I wasn’t thinking. ‘What if I miss.’ ’’
She didn’t miss, and the Gophers have the latest memorable episode in their rivalry with Wisconsin.
“I knew she could do it; she knew she could do it; and she felt freedom to do it,’’ Frost said. “It was pretty cool.’’
Because Campbell, the Badgers goalie, has seen this creative shootout move, does Potomak have something else up here sleeve for a future meeting?
“I don’t know,’’ she said, not tipping her hand. “I guess I’ll have to work on that.’’
Homecoming game for Darwitz
Tuesday marked the return to Ridder Arena of Natalie Darwitz, the former Gophers and Olympic standout who has brought the Hamline program to new heights. The Pipers were NCAA Division III runners-up last season and finished third in 2018. Hamline is ranked No. 2 in Division III, and Darwitz saw the exhibition against the Gophers as a chance for a challenge.
“We went into this today to get out of our comfort zone and have an opportunity where we could grow as a team,’’ said Darwitz, a three-time All-America forward for Gophers who was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame last year. “No. 1 team in the land in all of hockey. Obviously, our mind frame coming in here wasn’t the Miracle on Ice. It was, ‘How do we get better, and why not have a team we play against that will make us better?’
“A lot of people will call me crazy and say, ‘Why did you play the Gophers, it was 9-0?’ ’’ she continued. “We learned a lot, and it was beneficial for us to do this.’’
Minnesota outshot Hamline 47-13 and got a hat trick from Taylor Heise and two goals from Grace Zumwinkle, both top-liners.
“It was a fun night of hockey here and a great opportunity to have a couple good friends in Natalie and myself have our teams play against each other,’’ said Frost, who was an assistant coach at Eagan High School when Darwitz was a player and later hired Darwitz as an assistant coach for the Gophers.
Said Darwitz, “I’m fond of my U of M days, and this place I will always consider home. … It was fun for me to have the girls come back and see my face on the walls and to play here. It gave them quite the experience.’’