For the first time in the history of NCAA women’s ice hockey, a team finished its season undefeated. The Minnesota Golden Gophers prevailed in the NCAA Frozen Four championship game by a 6-3 tally over the Boston University Terriers to finish with a remarkable 41-0-0 record.
Amanda Kessel, the 2013 Patty Kazmaier Award winner, scored twice as the Golden Gophers claimed their fourth Frozen Four championship in program history. In addition, the Golden Gophers now boast an undefeated streak of 49 games heading into the 2013-14 NCAA season.
With the contest being hosted at Ridder Arena, the home-ice advantage did not seem to pay off in the early part of the opening period. For the first 11 minutes, the match was a defensive stalemate.
With Boston University’s Kaleigh Fratkin serving a penalty, the Golden Gophers capitalized. Mira Jalosuo beat Terriers goaltender Kerrin Sperry at the 11:38 mark with the assists going to Rachel Ramsey and Sarah Davis.
Near the end of the first, both clubs would add goals. As Ramsey was serving a hooking call for Minnesota, WCHA Rookie of the Year Hannah Brandt logged a shorthanded goal at 18:32. It was goal No. 33 of the season, and it provided Minnesota with a 2-0 advantage. A mere 16 seconds later, another rookie sensation, Sarah Lefort, scored for Boston University.
Heading into the second stanza, both clubs played stifling defense once again. Terriers backstop Kerrin Sperry played valiantly as she gave her club every opportunity to tie the game. Despite her best efforts, Kessel would log goal No. 45 of her spectacular season at 16:02.
From there, Minnesota would build on its momentum. With the Terriers’ Jill Cardella serving an elbowing call, Milica McMillen scored a power-play goal with 12 seconds remaining to provide Minnesota with a three-goal lead.
At 1:48 of the final frame, Terriers captain Marie-Philip Poulin would score on Noora Raty to reduce the Golden Gophers' lead. Facing a 4-2 setback, the Terriers tried to chip away but were ineffective. Sperry tried to improve the team’s hopes as she made a spectacular save on Kessel. At the 4:20 mark, Kessel weaved through traffic but her shot was denied.
Later in the period, Raty would provide similar heroics. Poulin cut her way through heavy traffic to face Raty, but her shot was turned aside. Had Poulin scored, it could have altered the momentum.
In the last five minutes of the frame, offense reigned again as three goals were scored. Rachel Ramsey would log her ninth goal of the season as she gave Minnesota a 5-2 advantage. Maryanne Menefee and Amanda Kessel earned assists on the play. For Kessel, it was her 100th point of the season.
Playing with an empty net, the Terriers took advantage of the extra goal to reduce the Gophers' lead to two goals. After Kaleigh Fratkin’s shot was blocked by a Gophers player, Jeanelle Kohanchuk grabbed the puck and would score at the 17:08 mark.
With the Terriers quickly running out of time, Sperry would return to the Terriers bench in the dying seconds of the game. Despite the extra attacker, the Terriers would not capitalize again. Kessel scored in the empty net at 19:11 to provide the Golden Gophers with a 6-3 lead.
As the clock wound down, the Terriers would become a footnote in history as they were the final opponent in the Minnesota Golden Gophers' quest towards an undefeated season. For seniors such as Noora Raty and Megan Bozek, it was the perfect way to end a pair of remarkable careers.
With Bozek and Kessel likely play for the USA at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, there is no question that these two give the United States every opportunity to win.