The Gophers women’s hockey team repeated as national champions Sunday, defeating Boston University 6-3 to complete a perfect 41-0-0 season full of record-breaking performances.
Minnesota’s unprecedented dominance raises a rare question: Is this the best women’s hockey team ever?
Senior goaltender Noora RÃ¤ty let perfection speak for itself.
“Doesn’t that already say that we are the best or arguably the best women’s team in the history?” RÃ¤ty said. “No other team has done this, so we are a better team than anyone had been throughout the years.”
Minnesota head coach Brad Frost said after Sunday’s win in the NCAA title game that the feeling of a perfect season hadn’t sunk in yet. He said the difference between this national title and last year’s was “freaky.”
“The one last year was so emotional. It was so incredible because it was the first time that I had done it as a head coach,” Frost said. “This one … it’s a little bit of relief and just so surreal.
“We didn’t lose a game all year. I can’t even explain that.”
Minnesota held a comfortable lead for most of Sunday’s title game at Ridder Arena, but it needed two overtime wins to get there. The Gophers defeated Boston College 3-2 in overtime in Friday’s NCAA semifinal, and they beat North Dakota 3-2 in three overtimes in their March 16 regional.
The Gophers nearly swept the all-tournament team with RÃ¤ty, freshman defender Milica McMillen, senior defender Megan Bozek, freshman forward Hannah Brandt and junior forward Amanda Kessel. RÃ¤ty earned the most valuable player award for the second year in a row, but Kessel’s weekend was just as impressive.
Kessel won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, an honor given to the season’s best Division I player, on Saturday. She scored her 100th point of the season Sunday, becoming the fourth player in NCAA history to do so.
“I can’t stop smiling,” Kessel said. “A lot of people are crying, but that hasn’t hit me yet.
“We made the impossible possible.”
Senior defender Mira Jalosuo — whom her teammates nicknamed “clutch” for her big plays toward the end of the season — gave the Gophers the breakthrough goal on a power play midway through the first period.
Brandt scored a shorthanded goal near the end of the first to give the Gophers a 2-0 lead. The Terriers halved the lead less than 20 seconds later on freshman forward Sarah Lefort’s power-play goal.
The Gophers solidified their lead in the second period. Kessel scored her first of two goals on a one-timer with four minutes left in the second period.
McMillen also scored on a one-timer with 12 seconds left in the period on a power play, widening the Gophers’ lead to 4-1.
The Terriers scored on another power play early in the third, but sophomore defender Rachel Ramsey extended the Gophers’ lead back to three goals with about five minutes remaining. Boston answered about two minutes later, but Kessel dashed any comeback hopes with an empty-net, unassisted goal with less than a minute to play.
“There wasn’t any quit. There wasn’t any fright,” Terriers head coach Brian Durocher said. “It was a fight to the end.”
In scene that has become familiar to the Gophers over the past two seasons, players littered the ice with gloves and sticks before burying RÃ¤ty in a celebratory dog pile at the final buzzer.
While the question over the best women’s hockey team ever is up for debate, Frost said one fact is non-negotiable.
“This team is a group that will be imprinted forever in history.”