MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — After breezing through the regular season unbeaten, Minnesota has needed overtime to win its first two games in the NCAA women’s hockey tournament.
The Gophers even, for the first time this season, trailed at the beginning of the third period in the semifinals Friday against Boston College.
But they only need one more victory to become the first team in the sport to finish with a perfect record. They play Boston University Sunday for the title, taking a 48-game winning streak onto their home ice at Ridder Arena.
“I’m not a big Herb Brooks-speech-kind-of-guy, but our players know what’s at stake,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “I’m hoping they’ll play a little more free than they have the last couple of weekends, or at least start a little quicker than we have the last couple of weekends. Like I said last night, when our team is pushed, they push back and seem to find a way. Hopefully, we can do that again.”
The Gophers (40-0) beat Western Collegiate Hockey Association rival North Dakota in double overtime in the quarterfinals. Boston University (28-5-3) beat Mercyhurst to advance and face the defending champions.
“I think there’s more pressure on the team that’s 40-0,” said Terriers coach Brian Durocher, whose team has won 10 straight games. “They’ve set the bar so high, and they’ve put themselves in a position where there’s a lot of pressure. There might have been somebody along the way who might have said, ‘If we just dropped one the first week of February, it might take the pressure off,’ but they haven’t.”
WCHA teams have won every championship since the NCAA first sanctioned women’s hockey in 2001.
“We might be playing with house money because there hasn’t been an eastern winner yet,” Durocher said. “There’s an awful lot to be said for the big hockey schools out here that have a lot of resources and a lot of opportunity. We’re hoping that we can break that streak. I know there are others out east who have certainly put up a good challenge, but it’s a credit to the WCHA that they’ve won it so many times.”
Minnesota junior forward Amanda Kessel — Toronto Maple Leafs star Phil Kessel’s sister — was selected the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner Saturday. All three finalists for the honor, given to the top player in the sport, were Gophers. Defender Megan Bozek and goalie Noora Raty are the others.
That’s yet another testament to the talent Frost and his staff have assembled, yet another reason why the Gophers haven’t lost a game in about 13 months.
“I think it’s in the back of our minds, always,” Bozek said. “It’s exciting being on such an incredible team and continuing the streak along from last year and hopefully to finish it out right this year.”
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)