The Gopher Women's Hockey team got to remember last season's undefeated season and back-to-back NCAA Championship this past weekend in Washington DC. They got to sight-see, and be honored on the South Lawn of the White House with several other NCAA Championship teams after meeting the President of the United States in a private ceremony on Monday. However, as soon as the Gophers left the White House and got back on the place to come back to Minnesota, last year was over, and this year was right back on their minds. However memories of last season won't fade easily. The Gophers will start their quest for a three-peat this Saturday at 4:07 PM at Ridder Arena as the #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament as they host the #8 seed, Boston University in the NCAA Quarterfinals. This game will be a rematch of the 2013 NCAA Championship game at Ridder when the Gophers beat BU 6-3.
The Gophers are coming off of another amazing regular season. While not carrying the burden of an undefeated season entering the NCAA Tournament as they were a year ago, the Gophers have been nearly as good going 36-1-1 with the only blemishes being a home loss to North Dakota which snapped the 62-game unbeaten streak, and a tie/shootout loss to Ohio State at Ridder as well. The Gophers also have done this while missing two players who will hopefully be back in 2014-15 in senior to be and 2013 Patty Kazmeier Award Winner Amanda Kessel, and sophomore to be defenseman Lee Stecklein who both took the year off to play for the Silver Medal winning US Women's Hockey Team in Sochi. The Gophers are still streaking however, as they come into the NCAA Tournament with a 24-game unbeaten streak. They also carry their NCAA record 44-game road winning streak into next season, as it will be only home and neutral site games left for the Gophers.
The Gophers are making their 12th NCAA Tournament appearance, and their seventh consecutive trip. They have a 15-8-1 all-time record in NCAA Tournament play, and have recorded five NCAA Titles (2000, 2004, 2005, 2012, and 2013). The Gophers hope to make 2014 different than 2006 when the Gophers also tried to go for the three-peat only to lose the NCAA Championship game in Mariucci Arena to Wisconsin 3-0. The Badgers are the only other team in the NCAA Tournament field who the Gophers have played this season, going 4-0.
The Gophers, if you haven't been paying attention at all this season have been led by sophomore forward Hannah Brandt. One of the finalists for the Patty Kazmeier Award for the best player in Women's College Hockey, she leads the nation with 62 points. The Gophers also have another major scoring threat in junior Rachel Bona who has 58 points on the season. On defense, the Gophers are led by Rachel Ramsey, the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year and MVP of the WCHA Frozen Face-off, sophomore Milica McMillan and senior Baylee Gillanders. The Gophers lead the nation in scoring from defensemen, as Ramsey is #2 and McMillan is #3 in scoring by blue-liners. The Gophers also have one of the best freshmen in the country in Dani Cameranesi, who has 33 points on the season and anchors the nations best freshman class averaging 2.42 points per game. Of course the Gophers would be nowhere without standout goaltending from Sophomore Amanda Leveille. Leveille who has stepped into the gigantic footprints left behind by graduated senior Nora Raty has been nothing but outstanding going 36-1-1 with a 1.07 goals against average, which is good enough for second in the nation.
Boston University recieved the Hockey East automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament by merit of a 3-2 victory in the Hockey East Championship game over national #6 seed Boston College. The Terriers would not have qualified for the tournament without receiving the automatic bid. Senior goalie Kerrin Sperry was named the tournament MVP with 82 saves on the weekend. Sperry was in goal for the Terriers in last year's Championship game when she gave up five goals on 28 shots by the Gophers. BU is lead on offense by sophomore Sarah Lefort who scored 54 points this season. She leads the nation with 31 goals on the season, and scored one of BU's three goals in the Championship game last season. BU also has gotten 46 points from senior Louise Warren and 30 points from senior Kaleigh Fratkin. BU is making their fifth NCAA Tournament appearance.
As for the team matchups, the Gophers are 2-0 all-time against the Terriers. The two teams had four common opponents this season, with the only blemish between the two teams coming in Wisconsin's 5-0 win over BU. The Gophers have the #1 scoring offense in the nation averaging 4.76 goals per game, while BU is ranked #18 in the nation on defense giving up an average of 2.54 goals per game. Minnesota also has the #1 defense in the nation, giving up a stingy 1.05 goals per game. BU's offense averages a respectable 3.03 goals per game. The Gophers power-play is #1 in the nation, scoring at almost a 33% rate, while their penalty kill is #2 keeping pucks out of the net 92.4% of the time. BU can also score on the powerplay with a 17.8% clip, and they also play well on the penalty kill with a 87% success rate. BU also averages three more penalty minutes a game than the Gophers, something ey will have to change if they want to try and win on Saturday.
The Gophers will have another edge in the home crowd in Ridder Arena as well. The Gophers are hoping to tie their all-time largest crowd, a 3,400 seat sell-out which they have done three times, including most recently the National Championship game against BU last March. Very limited tickets may still be available for the game at www.gophersports.com or at the Gopher Ticket office. If you can't get a ticket, the game will be live-streamed for free at ncaa.com with free live stats and a live blog here. The Daily Gopher will also be at the game and be providing updates via the game thread and twitter and will have a full recap later this weekend. The game faces off at 4:07 PM Saturday afternoon.
The winner of this game will advance to the NCAA Frozen Four hosted by Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. The winner of our game will play the winner of the game between the #4 seed Wisconsin Badgers and the #5 seed Harvard Crimson. The other two quarterfinal games are between #2 seed Cornell and #7 seed Mercyhurst, and #3 seed Clarkson and #6 seed Boston College. The 2014 NCAA Women's Frozen Four will take place Friday March 21 and Sunday March 23.