College

Gopher women’s hockey wins NCAA Championship

The University of Minnesota women’s hockey team captured its first NCAA Championship since 2005, defeating rival Wisconsin 4-2 in the title game behind two goals by senior Sarah Erickson, a penalty shot goal by senior Emily West and 42 saves by senior Noora Raty. To get to the championship game, the Golden Gophers downed Cornell 3-1 in the semifinals. The national title is Minnesota’s third after claiming championships in 2000, 2004 and 2005.

The Golden Gopher women's hockey team won its third NCAA Championship, and first since 2005, defeating Wisconsin in the title game Sunday at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth, Minn. Senior Captain Sarah Erickson tallied two goals, while senior Emily West had two points on a goal and an assist.

“We’re just so happy to bring the trophy back,” Minnesota head coach Brad Frost said. “It feels like a long time, especially when you watch our two biggest rivals be so successful over the past seven years in Duluth and in Wisconsin. We’re certainly happy to be representing the WCHA as they have in holding onto that national championship trophy.”

Minnesota got on the scoreboard first, as Amanda Kessel scored nine minutes, 45 seconds into the game with an assist from Baylee Gillanders. Less than two minutes later, the Gophers made it 2-0 with a goal by Sarah Erickson, assisted by Sarah Davis and Emily West. Erickson went top side, getting the puck past Badger goalie Alex Rigsby.

The Gophers were on the penalty kill for nearly five minutes through the last half of the period, and Wisconsin took advantage. Stephanie McKeough found the net on a power play, bringing the score to 2-1. Hilary Knight and Brooke Ammerman had assists on the goal.

Less than two minutes later, Brooke Ammerman scored at even strength to tie up the score, with a delayed penalty. Kessel went to the box, and Kelly Terry joined her one minute later, giving Wisconsin a five-on-three advantage for one minute. The Gophers were able to kill both penalties and only gave up two shots on goal while killing the penalties.

With one and a half minutes remaining in the first period, Emily West took a shot on goal, and was tripped by Wisconsin's Brittany Haverstock. A penalty shot was awarded, and West scored on the penalty shot to bring the score to 3-2 in favor of the Gophers. The penalty shot score was the first by a Minnesota player since January 2008 when Bobbi Ross scored on a penalty shot. It was the first ever penalty shot score in an NCAA Championship game.

The five goals in a period are the most combined goals scored in a single period in an NCAA championship game.

After five goals in the first period, both teams went scoreless in the second period. The Badgers outshot the Gophers 14-7 in the period, but Gopher goalie Noora Raty came up big, time after time. Only one penalty was called in the second period, a roughing call on Gopher Kelly Seeler with just over three minutes remaining in the period. Minnesota successfully killed the penalty, and only allowed two shots on goal during Wisconsin's power play.

“We talked about how when we play Wisconsin, it’s usually a race to three, and then when it was 3-2, I wasn’t sure that was going to hold up,” Frost said. “We got back to our strengths, moving our feet, chipping pucks, getting in deep, using our speed and then locking it down on defense started with out goaltender. We’ve been the best defensive team in the country all year and I think that showed tonight in the second and third period.”

The Gophers got an insurance goal when Sarah Erickson scored her second goal of the game, four minutes into the third period. Kelly Seeler had the assist on the goal. Wisconsin outshot the Gophers 20-9 in the final period, but Minnesota's defense held strong.

Wisconsin got a power play opportunity with just under three minutes remaining in the game when Emily West was called for holding. The Badgers pulled goalie Alex Rigsby from the net for a full two minutes with a six-on-four advantage. Minnesota's net was peppered with shots during the penalty, but the Gophers were able to successfully kill the penalty. Rigsby did not return to the Badger net when Minnesota returned to full strength, and Jen Schoullis had an open net shot, but didn't score.

Minnesota was able to hold Brianna Decker, the 2012 Patty Kazmaier Award winner, scoreless in the championship game.

Goalie Noora Raty won her 33rd game of the season, the school record for wins in a season. She saved 42 shots in the game and allowed only one goal at even strength.

 

Four Minnesota players were named to the all-tournament team: Sarah Erickson, Amanda Kessel, Megan Bozek and Noora Raty. Raty was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2012 NCAA Frozen Four.

“I knew this was a special group when we built this team last year, knowing the senior leadership we would have and the players that we had coming back and players coming in,” Frost said. “The most talented team doesn’t always win national championships and we needed more than that; we needed leadership, heart, grit, character and a team that’s tough, grateful, disciplined and devoted. Those are our four values and these players did that both on the ice and off the ice.”