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Natalie Darwitz scores the winning goal against Harvard in the NCAA championship game.

Natalie Darwitz (#20 in white) scores the winning goal against Harvard in the NCAA championship game.

Hockey team wins second straight national championship

Late goal lifts Gopher women over Harvard, 4-3

By Rick Moore

Published on March 28, 2005

All season long, the defending national champion University of Minnesota women's hockey team was considered the best in the country. But Sunday afternoon, in the championship game of the 2005 Frozen Four in Durham, New Hampshire, the Gophers were called upon to back up that title one more time.

They responded in typical fashion. Junior forward Natalie Darwitz scored the game-winning goal with 1:08 remaining in the third period to give Minnesota a dramatic 4-3 victory over the Harvard Crimson for its second straight national championship. It was Minnesota's second consecutive championship-game victory against Harvard (the Gophers won last year 6-2) and the Crimson's third straight loss in the title game. The Gophers, who finished the season 36-2-2, had advanced to the championship with a 7-2 victory Friday evening over Dartmouth.

After Harvard had tied the score 3-3 on a power-play goal with 6:06 remaining, the Gophers' top line of Darwitz, Krissy Wendell, and Kelly Stephens stepped on the ice for what looked to be one last shift before overtime. Then Stephens intercepted a clearing attempt along the boards by Harvard and quickly snapped a shot toward the net. Darwitz was there to pounce on the rebound and put the puck into a wide-open net behind Harvard goalie Ali Boe.

Darwitz scored a Frozen Four record nine points on three goals and six assists and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. For the season, she set an NCAA Division I record with 114 points. Darwitz was joined on the Frozen Four all-tournament team by Wendell and Lyndsay Wall, and a day earlier, Wendell was named the Patty Kazmaier winner as the best Division I women's hockey player in the nation.

Despite the individual accolades, the Gophers were most proud of their team accomplishments: WCHA regular season and tournament titles and the repeat national championship.

"We had a season to remember," said Gopher head coach Laura Halldorson Monday afternoon, March 28, at a welcoming rally for the team--attended by about 200 fans--at Ridder Arena. "In the national polls we were ranked No. 1 in the preseason and all throughout the whole year, and I don't think that's ever been done."

"I've been involved with a lot [of championship teams], but I don't think that there are any more deserving than this one," added athletics director Joel Maturi, who pointed out that the Gophers--as the top team in the country--were targets of opponents all season long. "You're probably looking at the best team ever to play women's college hockey."

For more photos and a complete game summary, visit Gophersports.com.

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