Forty games into the season, the University of Minnesota women’s hockey team is still looking for just one win. The Golden Gophers are set to play the Boston University Terriers at 3 p.m. CT in the 2013 National Championship and that one win would make history.
No female collegiate hockey team has gone undefeated in an entire season and claimed a national title. The closest was the University of Wisconsin in 2007 when the Badgers went 36-1-4.
Minnesota at 40-0-0 has a chance for their second straight National Championship with a win Sunday.
The Terriers come into the National Championship after defeating Mercyhurst 4-1 in the semifinals at Ridder Arena on Friday night. BU is 28-5-3 overall on the year and are looking to win the first national crown by a non-WCHA school. The Terriers and Gophers did not play in the regular season.
Boston is led by an experienced bunch of upper-class skaters with eight of their top ten scorers being juniors or seniors. Their junior goalie Kerrin Sperry has quietly posted a very good season going 24-4-3 on the year with a 2.11 goals against average and a .922 save percentage to lead BU to the Hockey East regular season championship this year.
Quiet in comparison to Gophers netminder Noora Raty who has been all-world with her play this season. Records have fallen every time the Finnish senior stepped on to the ice this season and tonight will her last game as a member of the University of Minnesota women’s hockey team.
The NCAA all-time leader in wins, shutouts, and likely save percentage after the conclusion of this National Championship game has been the primary back-stop for the Gophers for four straight seasons.
In front of Raty the assembled cast of players has led Minnesota to 48 straight wins. Well pacing the previous record of 21 by Harvard in 2008.
Leading the charge is the 2013 Patty Kazmaier Award winner Amanda Kessel. The nation’s leading scorer is just three points away from being only the fourth player in NCAA history to register 100 or more points in a single season. Kessel was presented the Patty Kazmaier Award Saturday at the McNamara Alumni Center.
The junior from Madison, Wis., Kessel played the first three-quarters of the season with point prediction that comes from a once in a lifetime player. The superstar first-liner was slowed in the last three weeks by an injury that capped her insane production level down the playoff stretch.
Stepping in for the Gophers have been a host of players all deserving of superstar status themselves. Joining Kessel and Raty as a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award was senior Minnesota defender Megan Bozek who has captained the blue line all year to record marks herself.
Bozek became the all-time scoring defender for the Golden Gophers in their history this season. She also set the single season scoring mark by a defender and has one final game in her Gopher career to add to her 56 point season total.
Countless other players have stepped in and played huge minutes. You could list the entire roster for the No. 1 team in the nation and pick up a defining moment for each on the year. In the NCAA Tournament alone, juniors Kelly Terry and Sarah Davis recorded overtime game winners.
Terry’s goal came in triple overtime versus North Dakota in the quarterfinals and Davis’ goal came Friday evening versus Boston College in the first overtime to earn the 3-2 win for the Gophers.
No matter how this final game of the year plays itself out in front of the sellout crowd at Ridder Arena, the Gophers will get to finish at home and with a chance to be famous. If it is just for one day in their lives, nobody can take away this season and what the team has accomplished as a whole.
The broadcast television cameras will not be in attendance for this National Championship game, but the Gophers are celebrities today. Win or lose the excitement this team has created for the sport of women’s hockey across the nation may never be equaled by a Division-I program.