Gophers women’s hockey coach Brad Frost, seven years removed, said the pressure of The Streak became palpable, constant.
Look back now, and that perfect season seems, well, perfect. A 41-0 record ended with a 6-3 victory over No. 2 Boston University on March 24, 2013. It was a second straight NCAA title, won at home in a packed Ridder Arena. The highest point in a five-year run that included four titles and one runner-up finish.
But it wasn’t always that easy. The Gophers were the host of the Final Four. Fans had bought the place out assuming the Gophers, who just kept winning and winning, would be there.
But you have to get there first.
“We wanted to be there,” Frost said this week. “But once you get into a one-and-done type of scenario, anything can happen.”
The Gophers’ overtime victory over Bemidji State, in their 32nd game, was the only one-goal game the team experienced in a regular season in which the Gophers outscored opponents 184-29.
But, in the NCAA quarterfinals, the Gophers faced North Dakota, a WCHA rival they already had played five times. None of those games was a blowout, including a 2-0 Gophers victory in the WCHA final just a week before.
The Gophers trailed by a goal until Amanda Kessel tied it at 2-2 with a power-play goal in the second period.
There wasn’t another goal scored until 18:51 of the third overtime, when Kelly Terry scored the game-winner. Or did she?
“It got awarded to Kelly, but it might have been Rachael Bona,” Frost said. “It was a pass from behind the net out front that went off a North Dakota skate. Terry might have gotten a piece of it, might not have. Nobody cared.”
A week later, another pressure-cooker in the semifinals. The Gophers and Boston College were tied 2-2 after regulation. Frost had an idea BC would tighten the rotation, going with just its top two lines, in the OT. He decided to roll with at least three. And it was the third line that ended it, early, when Sarah Davis skated into the slot, got the goalie to go down, and scored 1:39 into OT.
“What’s interesting is, once we got to the championship game, the pressure was off,” Frost said. “We’d gotten to the Final Four; we’d gotten to the championship game.’’
Three players from that team — forward Kessel and defensemen Megan Bozek and Lee Stecklein — were on the USA team that won silver at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Four years later Stecklein, Kessel and Hannah Brandt were on the USA team that won gold. Two others players — goalie Noora Raty and defenseman Mira Jalosuo — were on the Finland team that won bronze in 2018.
The Gophers were the first undefeated hockey NCAA champion since the Cornell men went 29-0 in the 1969-70 season. Kessel won the Patty Kazmaier Award as the best player in women’s hockey in 2013. The other finalists: Bozek and Raty.
“Now being the head coach at the U for 13 years, you realize how hard it was for that team to go undefeated,” Frost said.