The Gopher Women's hockey team will attempt to finish its quest for a third consecutive National Championship at 2:00 this afternoon when it takes on the #3 Seed Clarkson Golden Knights. The Gophers advanced by beating their arch rival Wisconsin 5-3 in the semi-finals on Friday. Clarkson defeated Mercyhurst 5-1 in the other semi-final.
The Gophers trailed 1-0 after one period and 3-2 after two periods, but struck back with a three goal third period capped off with a game-winning goal scored on the breakaway by Rachel Bona. Amanda Leveille tied her career saves in one game total with 34.
Clarkson fell behind 1-0 early in the first period to the Lakers, but struck back with 5 unanswered goals for the victory. The Golden Knights would get two assists from Jamie Lee Rattray, their senior leader and who on Saturday was named the winner of the Patty Kazmaier Award over Gopher Hannah Brandt and a player from Cornell.
Rattray leads a powerful Golden Knight scoring attack. She is third in the nation in points per game, while defenseman Erin Ambrose is seventh in the nation in points per game. Defensively, Clarkson relies on goalie Erica Howe. Howe has a 94.4% save percentage, a 1.02 goals against average, and leads the nation in shutouts with 14.
The Gophers have had plenty of experience with tough goalies this season, mainly with the Badger's Alex Rigsby. The fist team All-American lost to the Gophers five times this season, and Minnesota will be trying to blemish Howe's record as well. The Gophers also have another intangible in that this will be Clarkson's first ever National Championship game while this will be the Gopher's sixth NCAA Championship Game (winners in 2004, 2005, 2012, 2013, losers in 2006). The Gophers know the pressure that this game will put on a team, and have overcome the pressure multiple times. Can The Golden Knights handle it? Time will tell.
The major keys to the game all center around the two star goalies in today's game. First, the Gophers need to get off to a faster start then they have recently. The Gophers have fallen behind early in both games in the WCHA Tournament, and the semi-final against Wisconsin. Howe does not allow a lot of goals, and her stats will seem even more daunting the longer the Gophers play from behind. Secondly, Amanda Leveille needs to continue to play well and control her rebounds. Wisconsin took advantage of juicy rebounds for two of their three goals on Friday. Leveille is a standout in net, but if she is giving up big rebounds, it will be up th the Gophers defensemen to help her out. Luckily, the Gophers have several of the best defenders in the country in Rachel Ramsey, Milica McMillan, and Baylee Gillanders who is trying to send herself and the three other seniors on this team out in style.
Senior leadership will be key for the Gophers. Gillanders anchors the defense, and Kelly Terry, Sarah Davis and Bethany Brausen all will be trying to light the lamp one last time in a Gopher sweater. Hopefully they can say that they left the U with three rings and no regrets.
Face-off is 2:00 PM Central time. The Game will be live streamed on NCAA.com. There will be a free audio stream on the Gophersports website, and it will be broadcast live on 105 the Ticket Sports radio in the Twin Cities. Links to all of the broadcasts are in the game thread.
Both GoAUpher and I will be on the road traveling home from various locations during the game, but will be trying to stream the game in our various vehicles. Updates in the game thread may be sketchy at times, so feel free to find a feed, watch or listen and comment away in the open thread to your heart's content. Hopefully the Gophers can complete their jobs and #GoFor3 successfully.