PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Before heading east for the Frozen Four, Minnesota women’s hockey coach Laura Halldorson talked to a guy who knows a thing or two about winning in the NCAA Tournament.
Don Lucia, Minnesota men’s hockey coach, was more than happy to offer advice to Halldorson about winning on the national stage.
Lucia told her to keep the team’s focus on the first game. He said the opening game is always the toughest.
The Gophers found those words to be prophetic. Minnesota found itself down a goal to Dartmouth after the first 20 minutes of play.
But the Gophers leveled the score in the second, and exploded for four goals in the final period to win 5-1 and make history.
“It feels good to win a game at the NCAA Frozen Four,” Halldorson said.
The win was the first for the women’s hockey team at the national tournament since it became a NCAA sanctioned event in 2001.
“It’s huge for us,” senior co-captain La Toya Clarke said. “I’m just so excited.”
Behind the bench
Halldorson was named one of 10 finalists for the American Hockey Coaches Association Division I Women’s Ice Hockey Coach of the Year.
The award will be presented at the AHCA Coach of the Year Banquet on Saturday, April 24, in Naples, Fla.
Coaches are eligible if they were voted coach of the year in their conference, won their conference tournament or led their team to the Frozen Four.
Halldorson is the only coach to have won the award twice. She took home the honor in the 1998 and 2002 seasons.
Minnesota sophomore forward Krissy Wendell was named a first team All-American. The Brooklyn Park, Minn., native earned second team honors last season.
Wendell led the Gophers with 78 points and ranked third in the WCHA in scoring during the season.
Fellow sophomore forward Natalie Darwitz received second team All-American honors. The Eagan, Minn., native was tied for second on the Gophers with 64 points, and fourth in the conference in scoring despite missing 10 games because of an elbow injury.
Both Darwitz and Wendell were named to the All-Tournament team along with junior goaltender Jody Horak and sophomore defender Allie Sanchez.
Horak had 21 saves in Friday’s win and 31 saves in the championship game Sunday. She posted a .947 save percentage over the two games, the highest mark in Frozen Four history.
Sanchez had an assist in the win over Dartmouth, and played strong on the blue line for the Gophers in both games.
Wendell tallied eight points on the weekend including the second hat-trick in Frozen Four history and her fourth this season. Her eight-point effort was also the highest scoring mark in tournament history.
Darwitz notched six points of her own on the weekend. She tallied two assists in Friday’s win and had a hat trick and an assist in Sunday’s win.
The only non-Minnesota member of the all-tournament team was Harvard senior defender Angela Ruggiero, winner of the Patty Kazmaier Award.