Tremendous top line closes the deal before departing

Krissy Wendell won the Kazmaier Award as the top player in the nation Saturday.

Chris Lempesis

DURHAM, N.H. – Senior Kelly Stephens said after Sunday’s national championship win that she hadn’t thought about the game being her last on a line with juniors Krissy Wendell and Natalie Darwitz.

However, Sunday had to come, and now it is unavoidable: Their time as college hockey’s top line is over.

Sunday’s national championship repeat victory marked the last time the group will all don the maroon and gold sweaters at the same time.

“It was great,” said Wendell, who was awarded the 2005 Patty Kazmaier Award as women’s college hockey’s best player Saturday. “It’s an honor to play with these guys, and players like Natalie and Kelly don’t come along often.”

Wendell echoed sentiments expressed by Darwitz at the conclusion of Friday’s victory.

“To go out there every day, to know I’m playing with these two great players is an honor, and it’s fun,” Darwitz said. “That’s the most important thing. It’s such fun hockey.”

Stephens’ senior status means she is out of eligibility.

Wendell, though only a junior, will take next year off to play for the U.S. Olympic Team in the 2006 games in Turin, Italy. She has said that, although she will have a year of eligibility left after next season, this year was probably her last with the Gophers.

And Darwitz will also take next year for the Olympic squad. It is unknown whether she will return for the 2006-07 season.

Though their time as Gophers linemates is up, there is a possibility that, if all three make the U.S. Olympic Team – Stephens will also attempt to make the roster – they might be reunited under the red, white and blue.

“We don’t know what the lines are there,” Darwitz said Friday. “But hopefully, we play well this weekend, and maybe it’ll give them an idea to put us together.”

Hopefully?

By accounting for seven goals and 13 assists in the Gophers’ two Frozen Four wins this weekend, the trio just might combine to give the world headaches early next year in Italy.