Since splitting a weekend series with North Dakota back in February of 2012, the Maroon and Gold have not lost a game. Their record breaking streak was to be tested early this season when Minnesota faced rival Wisconsin and the Bulldogs of University of Minnesota – Duluth back-to-back, but both scheduled series came and went and Minnesota showed why they’re still the undisputed No. 1 women’s college hockey team in the country.
Led by a core of returning national champions and a seven member freshman class, the squad looks to be carving out their own legacy this season in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
One player that stands out on the roster is sophomore goaltender Amanda Leveille, who has been impressive in her six starts this year in replacement of three-time All-American Noora Raty, who graduated last year.
Leveille had held shutouts against the Badgers and Bulldogs already this season and combined with the defensive effort in front of her, she has a .952 save percentage and a 1.34 goals against average — good enough for sixth nationally in both categories. Though early, Leveille is not far off from Raty’s record breaking save percentage mark of .956 last season.
Offensively, Minnesota had to deal with the loss of Amanda Kessel to the U.S. Olympic team. Her 101 points was good enough for fourth all-time in a single season. Had she stayed, the Patty Kazmaier Award winner would have been a senior this year.
Leading the way for Minnesota thus far in her place, has been junior forward Rachael Bona, who added three points against Minnesota – Duluth over the weekend. Her 10 total points on the season, places her second in the nation in that category.
Right behind her is sophomore center Hannah Brandt, who pivots the top line for the team. Brandt looks like a seasoned veteran in just her second year with the Gophers. Finishing runner-up to Kessel in the national scoring race last season with 83 points, Brandt continues to distribute the puck with success. Her eight assists on the year is tops across college women’s hockey.
Where she also excels is in the face-off draw. Part of the overall success for the Gophers as a team is controlling the puck from the get-go. Brandt, along with seniors Sarah Davis and Kelly Terry have put Minnesota in positive situations with their sticks to a .606 face-off winning percentage — drawing them into the No. 2 spot in the country.
Another freshman, forward Dani Cameranesi, is also having a breakout year. She had a big series against the Bulldogs at Amsoil Arena, scoring three goals and adding an assist. The Plymouth native won the Ms. Hockey Award as a senior last year at the Blake School and helped lead the Bears to a state title.
“It’s expected the freshman should pretty much know what they are getting themselves into,” said junior defender Rachel Ramsey. “I think they all showed up ready to play and they’re all ready to contribute.”
She was right. With the help of freshmans Kelsey Cline, Kate Schipper, and Cameranesi, the underclassmen account for more than 51 percent of the teams scoring — definitely holding their weight.