Column: Gophers will thrive from disappointment

David Nelson

For what seemed like the first time in a long time, Minnesota traveled to face the Wisconsin Badgers last weekend as the second-best team in the nation.

After tying Minnesota-Duluth the week before, the No. 2 Gophers needed to earn their title back from top-ranked Wisconsin.

Though it needed some extra time on Saturday night, Minnesota took care of business in Wisconsin and found itself back on top of the college hockey world Monday.

And the Gophers will likely not move in the rankings again for the remainder this season.

That isn’t necessarily because of the team’s talent or its history of winning — though the Gophers have both — but because of what happened last March.

Minnesota could only watch as gloves, sticks and helmets flew into the air in exaltation when Clarkson knocked off the reigning back-to-back NCAA champions to capture the 2014 title in March.

The old saying is that a team learns more from losses than from victories, and the Gophers will prove to be no exception to that cliché this season.

For the first time in their last couple of seasons, the Gophers can add “chip on their shoulders” to the long list of characteristics that will help them dominate their opponents.

“It was actually a little release to have someone else take over the No. 1 spot,” senior forward Rachael Bona told the Minnesota Daily on Saturday. “It kind of put a chip on our shoulder to get it back. And this weekend, we proved that we are still the No. 1 team in the country.”

The Gophers didn’t get star Amanda Kessel back this season because of lingering symptoms from a concussion sustained while training with Team USA. However, the return of sophomore Lee Stecklein from the national team has already helped solidify a talented group of defensemen.

Junior Hannah Brandt and sophomore Dani Cameranesi are both in the top five in the nation in scoring.

And junior goaltender Amanda Leveille was Minnesota’s rock this weekend, giving up just two goals to a team that possesses four of the nation’s top 10 leaders in points.

“We gave up a lot more shots [Saturday],” head coach Brad Frost told the Minnesota Daily after the game. “And when that happens, your goalie has to be lights-out. And the only goal they got was a tough rebound, so aside from that, [Leveille] played extremely solid.”

The Gophers put together an unbelievable season last year that led them straight to the national title game.

Now that it is back on top of the women’s college hockey world, don’t expect Minnesota to deviate from its current spot this season.

The scars left from last year’s championship will help ensure that.