DULUTH, USA – The University of Minnesota has won the women’s NCAA national championship after a dramatic 4-2 win over Wisconsin in the deciding game of the Frozen Four on Sunday afternoon at AMSOL Arena in Duluth, Minnesota.
Sarah Erickson led the way with two goals for the “Golden Gophers”. Amanda Kessel and Emily West also scored for the winners while Stefanie McKeough and Brooke Ammerman got goals for the runners-up.
The Gophers put the finishing touches on a phenomenal season with a record of 33-5-2 (W-L-T) to win their third national title. They also won back-to-back championships in 2004 and 2005.
Finnish goalie Noora Räty was the hero in goal for Minnesota, starting in all four playoff games and saving 42 shots in the grand finale. Incredibly, the 22-year-old junior won 32 games for the Gophers team this season, a team record, and was named tournament MVP for the Frozen Four. Räty also posted 10 shutouts on the year and a GAA of just 1.37 and started all but one game.
Minnesota jumped into an early 2-0 lead in the first period, but Wisconsin scored twice in 100 seconds to tie the game. West notched the go-ahead goal, and eventual winner, late in the period on a penalty shot, beating Team USA goalie Alex Rigsby cleanly. She earned the free shot after being tripped while taking a shot clear in on goal.
Minnesota advanced to the finals thanks to a 3-1 win over Cornell on Friday night while Wisconsin beat Boston College 6-2 that same day in opening-round action of the weekend championship.
Meanwhile, the Badgers’ Brianna Decker was named winner of the Patty Kazmaier Award for 2011-12 for her outstanding season. The third-year Team USA forward beat out fellow American Jocelyne Lamoureux of North Dakota and Swiss goalie Florence Schelling from Northeastern to win the 15th edition of the award.
Decker is the third Badgers player in the last four years to win after Jessie Vetter in 2009 and Meaghan Duggan last year. Decker led the NCAA with 37 goals this season on a team led by national team coach Mark Johnson.
“I think that it’s pretty exciting, and it’s quite an honor, but like I said up on the podium, I can’t do any of this without my team,” Decker said. “I give so much credit to them and my coaches because they’ve made me the player I am right now. I honestly don’t think this is an individual award at all. Obviously it’s given to one person, but it comes from the team, and the team makes each player who she really is. I think that’s exactly what my team did this year for me.”
Unfortunately, Decker was held off the scoresheet in the championship game Sunday, a major reason Minnesota was able to win the title.
Selection criteria for the Patty Kazmaier Award includes outstanding individual and team skills, sportsmanship, performance in the clutch, personal character, competitiveness and a love of hockey. Consideration is also given to academic achievement and civic involvement.