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A perfect season!

March 24, 2013


Noora Raty makes a save.

Noora Raty makes one of her 21 saves against Boston University in the Gophers' 6-3 victory in the championship game of the Frozen Four. Raty was named the Frozen Four's Most Valuable Player.

Gophers wrap up unblemished season with a second straight national championship

The Minnesota women’s hockey team finished off its magical season in impeccable style Sunday, downing Boston University 6-3 at Ridder Arena for a second straight national championship.

The unprecedented undefeated run—Minnesota finished the season 41-0-0—gave the Gophers back-to-back titles and their fourth national championship overall.

Leading 2-1 late in the second period, the Gophers regained a two-goal cushion when Amanda Kessel, whom a day earlier was named the Patty Kazmaier Award winner as the nation’s best player, blasted a slap shot from the right face-off circle past BU goalie Kerrin Sperry.

That gave a charge to a standing-room-only, Minnesota-partisan crowd. And when Milica McMillen converted a cross-ice pass for a power play goal with only 12 seconds remaining in the period, fans began sensing that this would be a game with less drama than the previous two for Minnesota, which both resulted in precarious overtime wins.

The Terriers notched a power play goal by Marie-Philip Poulin early in the third period to narrow the gap to 4-2, but Minnesota’s Rachel Ramsey restored the three-goal lead at 15:27 of the third.

Then, after BU again climbed to within two on a 6-on-5 goal with 2:52 remaining, Kessel iced the championship emphatically with a well measured empty-netter at 19:11. The crowd counted down the final seconds, and as the horn sounded the Gophers raced to their net to mob Noora Raty, the Frozen Four’s Most Valuable Player.

“This is an incredibly special team and one that will go down in the history books as one of the best ever, if not the best ever,” said head coach Brad Frost, who received a an ice water shower from two of his players after the game. “To go 41-0 is amazing, but to go through the WCHA as we did without a loss is amazing, and then all of the non-conference and ending the tournament here without a loss is something I can’t even put into words.”

“Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll be able to top this feeling. It’s amazing,” added Kessel, who racked up her 45th and 46th goals of the season, along with two key assists. “A lot of people are crying, but I can’t stop smiling. I’ll be sad when I can’t play with these amazing players anymore, but right now, I can’t stop smiling.”

The tense climb toward the magic ‘41’

For much of the year, things looked pretty easy for the defending champion Golden Gophers. They began the season ranked No. 1 and riding an eight-game winning streak from the end of last season.

Then for four months they proceeded to break every record in the book for winning streaks in women’s college hockey.

But their previous two NCAA tournament games were epic overtime battles. North Dakota forced them to a third overtime and almost 119 minutes of hockey before succumbing 3-2 last weekend, and Boston College also forced overtime in the Frozen Four semifinals Friday before Minnesota escaped with another 3-2 win.

Which made a three-goal victory in the championship game feel like a bit of relief—for both the players and the fans.

“We finally got relaxed when we got playing because there was so much pressure to get to this Frozen Four and the national championship game,” said defenseman Megan Bozek, one of five Minnesota players named to the all-tournament team. “It was great to have a sold-out Ridder [Arena] and that helped keep our nerves in check. We were able to play 60 minutes of Gopher hockey.”

And that put the Gophers in a position to claim bragging rights like no other college hockey team has. Said Raty, the all-world goaltender from Finland: “It doesn’t matter how you say it, no other team has done this. So our record speaks to the fact that it is the best season in women’s hockey history.”

The streaks and records continue

With the victory, Minnesota continued the streak of dominance for western teams. Since the first NCAA tournament in 2001, teams from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association have captured all 13 national championships. The University of Minnesota Duluth leads the way with five titles, and Minnesota and Wisconsin both have four.

As well, the Gophers continued to pad their own ongoing streaks and records. Among them:

• 49 consecutive victories, dating back to last season

• 49 games in a row won or tied

• 41 victories in 2012-13 (breaks Wisconsin's record)

• 0 losses in a season (also breaks Wisconin's record from 2006-07)

Read more and watch video highlights at GopherSports.

Contact the writer at moore112@umn.edu.

Tags: Athletics

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