March 17, 2012
After winning winning 3-1 against Cornell in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinal on Friday, the Gophers advance to the NCAA title game, and will play Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon.
Gophersports.com will carry a free radio broadcast and live blog for Sunday's game. A free video webcast will be on NCAA.com. There will be no live television broadcast.
Minnesota is listed at No. 2 in the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine national polls. The Gophers received nine first-place votes in last week's USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll, just one vote short of No. 1 Wisconsin, who had 10 first-place votes.
The Gophers in the NCAA Tournament
Minnesota is making its tenth appearance in the 12-year history of the NCAA Championship, and has qualified for the tournament for a fifth-straight season. The Gophers have a 9-8-1 overall record in the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA first included quarterfinal games in 2005 after expanding the tournament field to eight teams.
The Gophers have made their eighth trip to the Frozen Four. The Gophers have appeared in the Frozen Four more times than any other team in the history of the tournament.
Minnesota has qualified for the national championship game for the third time in team history. The last time the Gophers played in the championship game was 2006, when they took on Wisconsin in the title game and lost 3-0. Overall, the Gophers are 2-1 in NCAA title games.
Minnesota won NCAA Championship titles in back-to-back seasons in 2004 and 2005. A WCHA team has won each of the 12 NCAA titles as Minnesota, Wisconsin and Minnesota Duluth are the only three teams to ever win an NCAA Championship.
Minnesota has allowed the fewest goals in the nation, allowing just 52 goals on the season. Minnesota ranks first nationally in scoring defense, allowing an average of just 1.30 goals per game.
Wisconsin is also strong on the defensive end of the ice. The Badger have allowed just 56 goals on the season, and rank second nationally in scoring defense at 1.44 goals allowed per game.
The Gophers got two power play goals in the NCAA semifinal against Cornell. Minnesota ranks third nationally on the power play, scoring on 48 of 191 power play opportunities this season (25.1 percent). Wisconsin is not far behind, ranking fifth nationally at 22.9 percent (41-179).
Minnesota gave up its first power play goal in the postseason when Cornell scored on the power play on Friday. For the season, the Gophers are 140-169 on the penalty kill, effectively killing 88.1 percent of penalties. Wisconsin is a tough penalty kill team, ranking first nationally. The Badgers have successfully killed 89.7 percent of their penalties this season (130-145).
Sophomore Amanda Kessel tallied three points on a goal and two assists in the NCAA semifinal win and is among the nation's top scorers this season. Kessel leads the Gophers in points with 79, and ranks fourth nationally with 1.98 points per game. She ranks fourth nationally in assists per game with 1.20. Kessel has scored points in 32 of Minnesota's 40 games this season, and has had multiple-point games 24 times.
With her 79 points this season, Kessel ranks third in the Minnesota record books for points in a season. After gaining three points in Friday's win, she moved past Nadine Muzerall's 77-point season in 1999-2000 and Krissy Wendell's 78-point season in 2003-04 to take third place. The top two on the list are Natalie Darwitz with 114 points in 2004-05, and Krissy Wendell with 104 points in 2004-05.
Kessel is the second-highest scoring sophomore in school history with 129 career points to date. Only Natalie Darwitz had more points after two seasons of play (146).
In the Net
Junior goalie Noora Räty leads the nation with a 1.33 goals against average. With the win against Cornell on Friday, Räty reached 33 wins for the season, the school record for wins in a season. Jody Horak is in second place in the record book with 24 wins in the 2004-05 season.
Räty set the school record for career shutouts when she got her 22nd at St. Cloud State on Feb. 4. She has since added four shutouts, and currently has 26 in her career and 10 this season.
West and Schoullis Break Into Top 10
Seniors Jen Schoullis and Emily West each have 156 career points, and are tied for 10th place on Minnesota's all-time top scorers list. Both players entered the Frozen Four with 155 career points, and each added one in the win over Cornell on Friday. Either player would need three points on Sunday to move up a spot as La Toya Clarke (2000-04) ranks ninth with 159 career points.
Schleper Moves Up in Record Books
Senior defenseman Anne Schleper added an assist in Friday's win over Cornell, giving her 114 career points. She ranks second in the Minnesota record book for points by a defenseman. The school record for points by a defenseman is 134 by Winny Brodt (1998-2003).
After Friday's game, Schleper has played in 158 career games, and holds the school record for games played.
Bozek in the Record Books
After adding a goal in the NCAA semifinals on Friday, Megan Bozek has 89 career points and ranks fourth on the Minnesota all-time scoring list for defensemen. She's also tied with Anne Schleper for career goals by a defenseman with 27, which ranks third in program history.
Bozek's 15 goals this season places her in a tie for second place in Gopher history goals by a defenseman in a season.
The defending national champion Badgers have been ranked No. 1 all season, with the exception of the one week when the Gophers took over that spot. Wisconsin came into the NCAA Championship as the No. 1 seed, and advanced to the title game by defeating Mercyhurst 3-1 in the quarterfinals and winning 6-2 against Boston College in the semidinals.
The Badgers have a 34-4-2 record this season, and won the WCHA regular season championship this season with a 23-3-2 mark.
Brianna Decker has 82 points (37-45-82) to lead the Badgers. Decker is a Top-3 Finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award this season. Brooke Ammerman is also a top scorer for Wisconsin with 33 goals and 42 assists for 75 points this season.
Wisconsin has a stellar goaltender in Alex Rigsby, who boasts a 1.35 goals against average to rank second nationally. Rigsby leads nationally in save percentage, saving 95.2 percent of shots on goal.
The Series against Wisconsin
The NCAA title game will be the fifth meeting between the Gophers and Badgers this season, with Minnesota holding an edge in the series in 2011-12 at 2-1-1.
On October 14 and 16, the teams split a series in Madison, Wis., with the Badgers winning the first game 3-2 while the tables turned and Minnesota gained a 3-2 win in the second game.
In Minneapolis Jan. 6-7, the teams skated to a 3-3 tie in overtime in the first game of the series, with Wisconsin winning the shootout and the extra point in the WCHA standings. The Gophers came back to get a 1-0 win in the second game.
The all-time series between the teams is a close one, with the Gophers holding a slight edge in the overall record
Versus Wisconsin in NCAA Play
The Gophers and Badgers have met twice previously in NCAA tournament play, with the Badgers winning both games. Wisconsin won the NCAA title in 2006 after winning 3-0 against Minnesota in the championship game. In 2008, the teams met in the quarterfinal round, where Wisconsin won 3-2 in overtime. Both of the previous meetings between the teams in the NCAA Championship took place in Minneapolis.
Coaching the Gophers
Brad Frost is in his fifth season as the Golden Gophers' head coach, and his 12th season overall with the Minnesota program. Frost started as an assistant coach in the 2000-01 season and was elevated to associate head coach following the 2005-06 season. He was named the interim head coach in summer of 2007, and was officially named the head coach of the Gophers following the 2007-08 campaign.
This season, Coach Frost has won his first WCHA Final Face-off Championship as a head coach, and has also advanced to the NCAA title game for the first time since he took over the program.
Frost holds a career record of 143-36-16 (.774).