Photo credit: Dave Harwig/Viewthroughmylens.net
Ranked No. 2 for most of the season behind archrival and the defending champion Badgers, Minnesota beat Wisconsin for the third time this season -- with no bigger victory coming Sunday afternoon in the NCAA Championship game at Amsoil Arena in Duluth.
The Golden Gophers beat Wisconsin 4-2 to capture their third national title and first since winning back-to-back championships in 2004 and 2005.
Amanda Kessel and Sarah Erickson gave the Gophers a 2-0 lead midway through the first period before Wisconsin rallied to tie it 2-2. The Gophers' Emily West was tripped up on a breakaway as the period was winding down before the officials awarded her with a penalty shot. West made a slick move on the Badgers' goaltender, creating a wide-open net for her to give the Gophers a 3-2 lead. Wisconsin wouldn't score another goal -- and Erickson, a Roseau native, added the fourth and final tally that would secure the victory.
“Obviously from the start, all four years I wanted to win a national championship, but when you’re playing teams like we do – of that caliber – Wisconsin and Minnesota-Duluth in our semifinal games, it’s really tough," Erickson said in the postgame press conference. "To come out even with a WCHA championship is very hard. I think to end as a senior on this note, I think it’s kind of a Cinderella story to come up short every year and this is fun, this is what I play for.”
Four Gophers were selected to the all-tournament team: Sarah Erickson, Amanda Kessel, Megan Bozek and goaltender Noora Raty, who was also the Most Outstanding Player of the Frozen Four. She stopped 42 shots, including several point-blank opportunities late in the game.
“She was dang good in the third period there, and flashing the leather with the glove towards the end of the game," head coach Brad Frost said in the conference. "Noora’s been on a run here over the last month that is as good as I’ve got to believe any goaltender’s ever been on ice."