The stage was set for the University of Minnesota women's hockey team on Friday afternoon as they attempted to garner sole possession of the NCAA all-time unbeaten streak. The Golden Gophers were matched up against co-record holder and rival Wisconsin, but the hype didn't get to the team's head and they didn't disappoint. Two first period goals was all the Gophers needed to defeat the Badgers and make history.
The Gophers' unprecedented mark of 33 consecutive wins dates back to Feb. 18, 2012 when the Maroon & Gold defeated North Dakota, 5-2, at Ridder Arena. The streak led the Maroon & Gold to the 2012 National Championship and has given them an unblemished record of 25-0-0 for the 2012-13 season.
It only took the Maroon & Gold 4:28 to claim a 1-0 lead as the team's top line skated to a three-on-two advantage. Freshman Maryanne Menefee carried the puck into the Wisconsin zone and attacked the net. As she drew a defenseman, the left winger dropped the puck back to junior Amanda Kessel, who made a quick pass across the face of the goal to freshman Hannah Brandt in the slot. Brandt drew back and slid the puck through the five hole of Wisconsin's goaltender Alex Rigsby to give Minnesota the early lead.
Brandt's go-ahead and eventual game-winning goal was her 24th of the season. Kessel and Menefee were credited with the assists.
Minnesota would put the pressure on again late in the period by garnering a power play in the final minutes. What was a one-skater advantage turned into a two-skater advantage at 17:01 and would remain that way for the next 62 seconds.
With one second remaining on the two-skater advantage, Minnesota wanted to get a quick shot off the ensuing faceoff. Junior Sarah Davis won the faceoff and had the puck slip back to sophomore Rachel Ramsey. The Chanhassen, Minn. native swung the puck to senior Mira Jalosuo at the opposite faceoff circle, where she one-timed a shot over Rigsby's shoulder.
The 2-0 lead would hold for the remainder of the period as the Gophers outshot Wisconsin, 12-7.
Jalosuo and the Maroon & Gold looked to extend their lead in the second period as the Finnish defenseman had a slapshot bounce off the pipe.
Minnesota's attempt to escape the feared 2-0 lead was failed despite bombarding Rigsby with 15 shots on net. The Badgers only challenged Noora Raty five times in the period.
Raty, who has been in net for 31 of the games during the streak, made 25 saves in the game to garner her 36th career shutout and 99th career win. The Finnish native is now just one win from tying the NCAA record for victories in a career (100, Hillary Pattenden).
In the final minutes of the game, Minnesota was called for back-to-back penalties, which allowed Wisconsin to produce 13 shots on net. Despite being shorthanded, the Gophers' defense executed their penalty kill for the final 3:27 to shutout the Badgers.
With the streak in hand, Minnesota changes its sights to achieving their first sweep of Wisconsin in Madison since the 2003 season. They will get the chance on Sunday at 2 p.m. in front of a sold out LaBahn Arena crowd.