The University of Minnesota used a goal from its sixth defenseman, a game-winning goal from its star, and two late goals from two of its seniors to win its third national championship in four seasons, and sixth national championship in program history 4-1 over Harvard Sunday. The Gophers now have five NCAA Championships, typing them with Minnesota-Duluth for the most of any program in the NCAA. The Gophers sixth championship is an AWCHA Championship in 2000, the last season prior to the beginning of the NCAA Women's Hockey Tournament. The six combined titles are the most of any College Hockey Program in History. The Gophers also move to 3-0 all time against Harvard in NCAA Championship games, wining the title over the Crimson in 2004, 2005 and 2015.
Minnesota and Harvard were ready to play tonight from the drop of the first puck. The Gophers and Crimson both had good scoring chances in the first period, but neither team could get through their opponents star goaltender. Emerence Maschmeyer for Harvard was outstanding, making thirteen saves in the first period. The one she didn't save will be the one she will remember.
The Gophers gained the puck at center ice right as the clock read one minute remaining in the first period. Dani Cameranesi entered the zone and found Rachael Bona on the right side of the rink. She found a streaking Megan Wolfe, the Gophers sixth defenseman who has played half the season on defense and half the season as a forward. Wolfe took the puck on the left side of the Harvard zone, skated towards the face-off circle and ripped a wrist shot in the upper corner of the net above Maschmeyer's glove to put the Gophers on the board. Minnesota would take all of the momentum from a back and forth period into the locker room on that one shot.
The second period was a back and forth affair. Both teams again would have quality shots, but Maschmeyer and Amanda Leveille would stand tall in their nets and not allow anything past. The Gophers would have a 25-14 edge in shots on goal after two periods, but it would remain 1-0 on the portion of the scoreboard that mattered.
Both teams again had ample chances to score early in the third period, but both goaltenders stood tall. Minnesota finally would get the eventual game-winning goal with 8:50 gone in the period. Harvard's Josephine Pucci, a 2014 Sochi Olympian turned the puck over near the blue line in her own zone. Maryanne Menefee picked up the puck and saucered the perfect pass to Hannah Brandt to gathered it on her stick, shifted to her backhand and flipped a perfect shot over Maschmeyer's shoulder to put Minnesota ahead 2-0.
The Crimson would not be denied, and defender Sarah Edney finally got Harvard on the scoresheet when she took a pass from Michelle Picard and slid a perfect shot under Leveille's pad to cut the Gopher lead to 2-1. Harvard seemed to have all the momentum, but the sell out crowd got on thier feet and gave the Gophers a much needed boost.
An even bigger boost game 1:48 later when Kelly Pannek found an open Meghan Lorence who ripped a wrist shot past Maschmeyer from the face-off dot to once again put Minnesota up by two. The senior's 18th goal of the season set the crowd into a frenzy, and seemed to be the straw that broke Harvard's back.
The Crimson would pull Maschmeyer with just under two minutes remaining in the game, and Minnesota did not take long to strike. Senior co-captain Rachael Bona would score the final goal of her career from 120 feet away into the empty net, and the party in Ridder was on.
The final horn sounded, and the pile up on top of Leveille was on. The Gophers would finish the season with a record of 34-3-4, while the Crimson would fall to 27-6-3. Five Gophers and one Harvard player would make the All-Tournament Team. They were:
Goalie: Amanda Leveile-- Two goals allowed on 55 shots.
Defensemen: Megan Wolfe-- One goal and One assist; Sarah Edney--One goal, one assist
Forwards: Hannah Brandt--Two goals, two assists; Maryanne Menefee--One goal, three assists; Dani Cameranesi--Two assists
Most Outstanding Player: Hannah Brandt
Postgame, the Gopher players were thrilled that they could come back from last year's disappointing loss to Clarkson in the championship game to reclaim the title on their home ice. Bona and Ramsey were thrilled to be able to go out on top as seniors. Bona said, ""I told her after the game (Ramsey) that I remember two years ago when we won at home, I remember thinking how lucky those seniors were to win the national championship at home in front of all of our fans, and to be able to end my career - obviously it’s a really bitter sweet moment because I know I will never put on that jersey again - but it couldn’t of ended much better than it did."
Brad Frost agreed with Bona, it was something special. "I don’t know how you explain what’s going on here to have these two next to me, Meghan Lorence and Shyler Sletta, play in four national championships in a row. To come away with three of them speaks volumes to our team, our program and our players. We are so blessed and fortunate. I feel incredibly blessed just to be able to coach at the University of Minnesota, let alone coach such great players like these girls are. I’m just thrilled. It’s somewhat surreal, but when you’ve got 3,500 screaming fans cheering for you, it sure gives you an extra boost which helped our team come through tonight."
Ramsey was asked about the D-word...Dynasty. ""I don’t know if the team or the players are ever the ones who want to say that yes this is a dynasty, but I will say that I think what we have done is incredibly special. I don’t know if it will be done again and we will leave it up to you guys to call it a dynasty or not."
Ok Rachel. We will. Its a Dynasty. New England Patriots got nothing on Minnesota Women's Hockey. And if Frost has his way, its not going to stop anytime soon, ""I’ve said it a hundred times and I’ll say again that it’s our culture, our values, the process and all those things. For people like Ramsey and Bona to come in and hear the upper classmen talk about what it means to be a Gopher, to focus on the process, be tough, grateful, disciplined and devoted all times is big. I thought last year we exuded our values after the championship loss more than we’ve ever done before. It’s easy to embody those values when you’re winning, but to lose last year and still see our players still be so grateful for the opportunity to play here just makes this year that much sweeter."
Yes Coach...yes it does. Congrats to your 2014-15 NCAA Champions!
You can see some more post-game interviews with several Gophers below:
Video of Most Outstanding Player junior Hannah Brandt:
Video of senior Meghan Lorence:
Video of junior Maryanne Menefee: