In an exciting and back and forth game, the Minnesota Gophers (40-0-0) defeated the Boston College Eagles (27-7-3) 3-2 (OT) in the semi-finals of the Women's Frozen Four at Ridder Arena (Minneapolis, MN). The win extended the Gophers' NCAA record winning streak to 48 games. The contest was the first between the two teams since Boston College defeated Minnesota 3-1 in the 2011 NCAA Quarterfinals.
The opening minutes set the tone for the entire game, as Minnesota and Boston College kept the action bouncing back and forth from end to end. As the period continued, Boston College put the pressure on, keeping the puck in the Minnesota zone and drawing a power play at the 9:00 mark (a crosschecking minor on Sarah Davis). The Gophers were able to kill off the penalty while allowing three shots on goal, two of which tested goalie Noora Raty from close range
The back and forth play continued until the 6 minute mark, when a holding penalty on Boston College put the Gophers on the power play. The Gophers got several good chances but either missed the net entirely or failed to put enough on their shots, allowing BC netminder Corinne Boyles to make easier saves.
The Gophers went on the power play again at the 2:33 mark and started off strongly, with solid puck movement, crisp passes, and one shot on goal. But Boston College regained their footing and killed off the rest of the penalty without difficulty.
At the end of the 1st period, the shots on goal stood 11 to 9 in favor of Boston College. Minnesota had attempted more shots (20-16), but BC had the better chances, with the majority of their shots coming between the dots and half of those clustered in close around goal. Minnesota meanwhile spent more of their shots bombing away from long range and failed to put 3 of their 5 close looks on net.
The second period opened with more back and forth, as both BC and MN had good chances denied by opposing defenders. Minnesota equalized the shots on goal at 12 six and half minutes in, but their passing began to struggle. Despite that fact, the two teams played pretty equal until the 3:22 mark. This stretch also revealed a problem that Minnesota would fight against the rest of the way as Noora Raty gave up an uncharacteristic number of big rebounds.
As the game remained scoreless despite mounting missed chances by both teams you could feel the tension building and knew that something had to give. It just felt like the next team to get a power play would finally knock one home and with 3:22 left the Eagles got their chance following a slashing call against the Gophers. They took advantage, as Emily Field (assisted by Alex Carpenter and Haley Skarupa) scored with 1:47 left in the second period. The chance appeared off a rebound, as Carpenter put a shot off a Gopher defender who had dropped to the ice in front of Raty at the last second. Noora had put herself in position to make the save, and that left her out of position as Field corralled the rebound and knocked it home on the backside.
While they may have been trailing 1-0, the Gophers had actually outshot Boston College 11-8 for the period despite their rough and uneven passing. The big question was whether they could overcome the deficit, which was the first time during the entire 2012-2013 season that the Gophers had entered the 3rd period trailing.
Minnesota came out the gates firing and drew a powerplay off of a Boston College hook just 34 seconds into the period. It was just what the Gophers needed, as they scored just over a minute into the powerplay off of a tip in goal by freshman phenom Hannah Brandt. The tip came off a Megan Bozak slapshot, with the second assist going to Milica McMillen. Following the goal, the Gophers keep up the pressure and almost scored another one right away.
The next ten minutes was more of the same back and forth and included a Boston College powerplay (which the Gophers killed with ease). And then with 7:48 left in the period, a flurry of shots produced a Becky Kortum goal. It all started with Rachel Bona putting one on net with her rebound being put back on Boyles by McMillen before Kortum banged the second rebound home.
At that point, Gophers fans had to feel good. The feeling didn't last, as Boston College's Lexi Bender scored the tying goal (assisted by Skarupa and Trivigno) exactly two minutes after Kortum's. The Gophers finished out the game with multiple game winning opportunities, but all of them were turned away by Corrine Boyles. The Gophers finished the period with a 16-8 shots on goal advantage and a 36-27 lead overall.
The Gophers were clearly not going to be denied in the OT (Minnesota's third OT game of the season). They had a great shot to win immediately following the faceoff and it took only 1:39 before Sarah Davis potted the game winner. It set of a huge celebration and assured the Gophers the chance to win their second national title and finish off their perfect season against Boston University on Sunday.
Game Thoughts and Facts:
- This was a very exciting game. I loved the back and forth flow and the wide open style. If you'd told me coming in that this is what we'd see, I would have thought that the Gophers would win by 2.
- Minnesota's 40 wins are the highest single season total in Division I women's hockey history.
- This was Sarah Davis' second game winning goal of the year.
- Hannah Brandt's goal was her team leading 10th on the season.
- The crowd was as great as you'd expect, with lots of support and some extremely loud Rousers.
- Boston University sent their band, which added to the atmosphere.
- And...I'm tired. Thanks to everyone who participated in the open thread or followed along on Twitter.
- I'm not going to have time to get video up, so I'll throw up the U's clips if I can before heading out for the Patty Kazmaier awards tomorrow. Anyone want to bet a Gopher wins that one? =)