Ross’ standout performance leads to Friday night victory

by Zach Eisendrath

Sophomore forward Bobbi Ross had managed to score only four goals in her previous 21 games. On Friday night, in a performance that will be remembered as one of the best in the short history of women’s college hockey, Ross added four more scores to her season total.

With Minnesota’s women’s hockey team facing the top team in the country, No. 1 New Hampshire, in the NCAA semifinals Friday night, Ross led the Gophers past the Wildcats 5-4 in arguably the biggest upset in Frozen Four history.

“You see an ‘A’ on Bobbi’s jersey and she is only a sophomore and that tells you a little about what she is made of and what her teammates think of her, coach Laura Halldorson said. “A lot of this has to do with her unselfishness and just the way she plays the game. She brings a hard hat every day and does the little things and I am really happy for her for the game she had (Friday).”

Through Minnesota’s inconsistent first half of the season, Ross and fellow sophomore forward Erica McKenzie were the only players consistently shouldering the scoring load.

As the Gophers made their second-half sprint to their third NCAA championship game in three years, new goal scorers emerged and McKenzie continued to answer the bell – she was named Western Collegiate Hockey Association Scoring Champion.

But Ross – last year’s WCHA Rookie of the Year – was one of the Gophers’ only players in a noticeable slump. In a 10-game span from Jan. 7 to Feb. 10, she was held scoreless.

But Ross more than made up for her disappointing second half of the regular season in her performance Friday night.

Ross did it all. She put the Gophers in front early, tied the game on a second-period penalty shot and won the game with her heroic goal at 1:51 left in regulation.

Ross even helped freshman goalie Brittony Chartier on the penalty kill, blocking at least four shots, according to Chartier.

“Bobbi stopped more shots than I did tonight, I think,” Chartier said with a grin.

Ross’ first goal came just 46 seconds into the game, sending the announced hometown crowd of 2,876 into a frenzy.

Ross then stretched the lead to a two-goal margin when junior captain Andrea Nichols passed the puck from behind the net to a cutting Ross midway through the first.

But after three unanswered New Hampshire goals put the Wildcats ahead by one, Ross continued her onslaught.

With the Gophers on a five-on-three advantage, a New Hampshire player covered the puck in the crease, setting up the penalty shot.

Ross was the obvious choice to take the shot.

“Obviously in that situation with what was at stake, the coaches talked about who we wanted to take the shot in that situation and Bobbi is calm, cool and collected, Halldorson said. “She was hot tonight so I went with her. Bobbi made a great move and that added to the whole excitement.”

Ross said she knew what move she was going to use, but she had to adjust to unfamiliar circumstances when a TV timeout was called as she prepared for the tying goal.

“The extra time before the shot was taken was kind of nice because it gave me time to get my legs to stop shaking, Ross said.

Ross’ successful move past Wildcat goalie Melissa Bourdon brought the hometown crowd to its feet.

“I am not very creative, but it worked, Ross said of the backhand move that forced Bourdon wide left. “I had no doubt in my mind which move I was going to do. I just hoped she didn’t read it.”

With the game still tied late in the second, Ross had an opportunity to help the Gophers regain the lead, but failed when her attempt hit the top of the crossbar.

“I think I would be hearing that crossbar for the rest of my life if we hadn’t won that game,” Ross said.

But when Ross was given a second chance, she didn’t disappoint.

With overtime imminent, Ross took sophomore forward Whitney Graft’s pass in front of the net with 1:51 remaining and put the puck past Bourdon – snapping New Hampshire’s 29-game unbeaten streak.

Ross deflected most of the credit from her brilliant performance, but still said that big players really do need to make big plays in big games.

“When a team is in this kind of situation, you don’t really think about it,” Ross said. “You just have to rise up.”