The crowds raced through the doors an hour before game time at Ridder Arena for the 2013 Women’s Hockey National Championship game. The sold-out crowd arrived early and most were dressed in Maroon and Gold from head-to-toe to watch the University of Minnesota women’s hockey team play for a second straight National Championship trophy.
Minnesota won the 2012 National Championship in Duluth at Amsoil Arena and the home playoff advantage this year was a nice perk to Gophers fans who have packed Ridder Arena for most of the season. Feeding off the energy and continuing to show just how good this Gophers team is, they defeated the Boston University Terriers 6-3 to claim back-to-back NCAA women’s ice hockey crowns.
It is the fourth NCAA National Championship for the U of M since the sport became sanctioned by the collegiate governing body. Minnesota also won the 2000 National Championship when it was ran by the American Women’s College Hockey Alliance.
The game itself was rather entertaining from the opening face-off. Minnesota’s senior goaltender Noora Raty was tested early in the first period as BU freshmen forward Sarah Lefort had a breakaway chance. The All-American from Espoo, Finland slammed the door on Lefort and kept the game at 0-0 during a good start for the Terriers.
The scoring started the game thanks to a penalty against BU junior defender Kaleigh Fratkin at the halfway point of the first period. It was the second power play unit for the Gophers that put Minnesota on the board first. Senior defender Mira Jalosuo cranked a slap shot under Terrier goalie Kerrin Sperry to put Gophers up 1-0. Sarah Davis and Rachel Ramsey assisted on the PP goal.
The Gophers quickly added to their first period lead thanks to freshmen forward Hannah Brandt. While short-handed after a Rachel Ramsey penalty, Brandt and Amanda Kessel set up a 2-on-1 breakaway opportunity and created a great scoring chance for Minnesota. Brandt’s first shot attempt was stopped by the Terriers, but the first year sniper Brandt picked up the puck in the corner off a rebound and threw it off the back of the goaltender Sperry and it deflected into the goal.
Minnesota’s two goal lead would not stay for long as Lefort scored on a rebound attempt just 16 seconds later. It was goal No. 24 on the year for the Terrier rookie.
The second period was very competitive and physical. Both squads were hungry for goals. The undefeated Golden Gophers continued to show why they are the best team in women’s hockey history with some late period goals.
Gaining energy off a post-to-post save by Raty at the other end of the ice, the Patty Kazmaier Award winner Kessel scored at the 16:02 mark of the period on a one-time across the Boston goaltender Sperry. It was point No. 99 on the year for the Madison, Wis. native. At 3-1 the Gophers were in great shape to claim their second National Championship in a row.
No team all season has scored more than three goals on Minnesota. And opponents have only scored three goals on the Gophers a total of three times. — twice by North Dakota and once by Ohio State in the regular season.
The scoring would continue for Minnesota in the second period thanks to another talented freshmen in defender Milica McMillen. The blueliner would take a one-timer blast of her own from the exact same spot as Kessel on the power play with just 12 seconds left in the period. It was her thirteenth goal on the year and it would wind up being her third game-winning goal.
The Terriers would not give up in the third period. Minnesota’s Davis would take an early penalty and BU’s leading scorer Marie-Philip Poulin would score off a Raty rebound to make it 4-2 with 18:12 remaining in the stanza.
Mixed in on the scoring earlier in the game was freshmen forward Maryanne Menefee. Having set up both the one-time goals by McMillen and Kessel in the second period, the rookie continued her stellar work with the pass and delivered a precise feed to Ramsey who pinched in to score her ninth goal of the year. At 5-2 the crowd could sense the inevitable with under five minutes to play.
Minnesota coach Brad Frost took a timeout just two minutes later to give his team some rest after being stuck in long shift. Boston used the time to rally their team for one last push and scored immediately after the break. The Terriers pulled their goaltender Sperry and forward Jenelle Kohanchuk brought Boston within two once more.
At 5-3 BU became the first non-WCHA school to put three goals in on Minnesota.
The Terriers kept the net empty for the rest of the game and Kessel would record goal No. 46 in the final minute to seal the game. The goal put her point total to 101 on the year as she received the second assists on the Ramsey goal four minutes earlier.
Kessel becomes only the fourth player all-time in women’s hockey history to reach the 100 point plateau in a season.
The celebration at the final horn sent the players to the north end of the rink and directly on top of Raty. Senior Patty Kaz finalist Megan Bozek would peel off the pile and grab the water cooler off the bench and shower coach Frost on the ice.
Frost just happened to have his overcoat on during the celebration for protection.
The sell-out crowd would stick around and salute both teams when they received their individual and team awards. Making the All-Tournament Team where Gopher forwards Kessel and Brandt, defenders Bozek and McMillen and goalie Raty.
Poulin was the only Terrier selected to the team. Raty was picked as the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
When asked about making the run to a 41-0-0 season, after the game, Kessel said “We made the impossible, possible”.
The team motto for the year was “leave no doubt” and no doubt about it, the Golden Gophers are the 2013 NCAA Women’s Hockey National Champions.