HAMDEN, Conn. – Four teams entered and two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum remain. It might be easy to say the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (38-1-1), looking for their third consecutive National Title and sixth overall has the upper hand. Tournament newcomer, the Clarkson Golden Knights (30-5-5), wants to rewrite the history books and become the first non-WCHA team to win a title and the first team from the Potsdam, NY school to win an NCAA Championship.
“I don’t know if it’s fully sunk in yet,” Knights’ co-head coach Matt Desrosiers said. “obviously yesterday we had a big win for the program.”
With inexperienced teams, you tend to not know what you will get. Does a team come out too confident and fall flat after being outplayed? Does a team come out knowing they are facing the best in the country and get beat into submission? While they are still taking it in, Clarkson’s coaches and players believe they are even keel enough to win tomorrow’s heavyweight title bout.
“I kind of view it as a good thing, that it hasn’t sunk in,” Desrosiers added. “We’re going about our business and not overthinking things and just going into tomorrow’s game with an open mind and going out there and just working as hard as we can.
“We’ve never been too high and never been too low. That’s what you want out of your team, especially going into weekends like this. The players are going to enjoy the moment…they remain very focused at the task at hand. They have great aspirations and one of those was to win a National Championship, and they’ve put themselves in a position to do so.”
“We’re ready to be just all in tomorrow,” Clarkson senior forward Brittany Styner said.
“They’re going to get a ‘helluva” good game,” Knights’ senior forward Vanessa Gagnon said Friday night.
“The only film we really have is from last night,” Gophers’ head coach Brad Frost said. “We want to prepare them the best we can…but in the end it comes down to us, and executing for 60 minutes.
“When you’re in the National Championship [you can’t play] anything but your best.”
Meanwhile, for the seniors on both clubs, this final game will bring things full circle. These two teams last met – at Cheel Arena in Potsdam, NY – in the opening series of their freshman season, October 1st and 2nd, 2010. Minnesota won by a combined 8-0 (5-0, 3-0). In fact, in five total meetings, including a 3-2 OT victory for Minnesota in the 2010 NCAA tournament, the Gophers have a commanding 5-0 series lead.
“Starting with Minnesota and ending with Minnesota, that’s kind of a cool thing that not everyone gets to do and we get to measure how far we’ve come,” Clarkson senior goalie Erica Howe said.
Meanwhile, it was all smiles on the Gophers’ end. After a wild game to open the Women’s Frozen Four where they snuck out as 5-3 victors over the Wisconsin Badgers, the mood was jovial and relaxed in the post-practice press conference.
In the press conference, Frost was talking about how the seniors all get a practice drill named after them and joked that Sarah Davis would have had a drill named after her, if she scored on a 2-on-1.
“Still working on it,” the 19 goal scorer quipped.
Right on cue, Frost added: “She’s drillless.”
He paused and smiled. “We’ll still try to remember her.”
If they haven’t done so already, the Gophers have a chance to prove that they are the undisputed dynasty at the Division 1 level. They are doing it without Olympians Amanda Kessel and Lee Stecklein. Meanwhile, Clarkson had just 15 skaters dressed for last night’s game, and may have one more added Sunday.
While most in the hockey community are predicting Minnesota to win, and many believe it will not be close, look for the “rookies” to make a statement. Even if they can’t hold out and win, Clarkson has been a beast in the East for years, and their tenacity and determination has carried them this far. Look for them to play a hard game and surprise the Gophers. That being said, Inside Hockey predicts: Gophers 5 Knights 3.
Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award
Clarkson senior forward Jamie Lee Rattray was awareded the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award Saturday morning. The equivalent of the Hobey Baker Award for the men, Rattray becomes the first Knight to win the award for the best player in the NCAA. The Kanata, ONT native is one of seven seniors on the Knights. Coming into the tournament, she had 177 points, a school record.