March 21, 2013
On the eve of the 2013 NCAA Women’s Frozen Four, each of the remaining teams hit the ice for Thursday practice on the same ice sheet on which they will skate in tomorrow’s national semifinal games at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
Friday’s matchups will pit top-ranked and undefeated Minnesota against No. 4 Boston College at 5 p.m. CT before No. 3 Boston University and fifth-seeded Mercyhurst cap the night with an 8 p.m. CT faceoff.
Fresh off a 3-1 quarterfinal win against Harvard last Saturday, Boston College was the first team to practice. The Eagles, who are making their third consecutive Frozen Four appearance this weekend, got off to 1-3 start to the season but followed that string of games with an 18-game unbeaten streak that propelled them to a 27-6-3 record and a spot in the national tournament.
“I think the kids really stepped up their game when they realized what’s on the line,” said BC head coach Katie King of the team’s turnaround in the team’s post-practice press conference. “They need to realize that every game is a big game. Toward the end of the season, we started to realize that.”
Boston College will play its biggest game of them all Friday night, when it will attempt to halt defending national champion Minnesota’s 47-game winning streak at the Gophers’ home arena.
Frozen Four host Minnesota, the only team to have skated at Ridder Arena before Thursday, took the ice just before noon. The Gophers’ unblemished 39-0-0 record hasn’t come easy—the team’s biggest challenge of the year came last week when it vanquished WCHA rival North Dakota win a 3-2 win in triple overtime.
“I think that just prepared us for this weekend,” said Minnesota forward and national scoring leader Amanda Kessel of the marathon game. “Going into the game, I think we knew that it’d be tough and that they were going to throw everything they had at us. I think our team really responded and everyone played great.”
Minnesota will be looking to avenge a 2011 NCAA Tournament loss to the Eagles in Chestnut Hill, Mass., the teams’ only all-time meeting.
Following media time with the teams from Friday’s first game, College Hockey America champion Mercyhurst finished up its skate and took to the podium.
Entering the weekend at 23-8-3, the Lakers are riding an eight-game winning streak that included a 4-3 overtime win against Cornell in their quarterfinal contest last week, but will face a Boston University team that has won nine in a row.
“They’re a very good team,” said Mercyhurst coach Michael Sisti of the Terriers. “I don’t think you could get here if you’re not a great team. They’re very deep; they have good goaltending, a great set of D, and very skilled forwards. They’re a well-coached team and they’ve been here before, too.”
Though the Lakers have welcomed 19 new players to the team over the last two seasons, semifinal foe BU, which was the last team off the ice for the day, has a sense of familiarity with Mercyhurst.
“We’ve played a couple NCAA games against them,” said senior defenseman Kathryn Miller. “They got the better of us the first time and we had a little bit of a chip on our shoulder the second time, so we’ll expect them to have the same type of feeling this year.”
The Hockey East regular season and playoff champion Terriers have reached the tournament in each of the past four seasons. Mercyhurst eliminated BU with a 4-1 win in 2010, but BU avenged that loss with a 4-2 win over the Lakers in the tournament the following year en route to its first-ever Frozen Four bid and a spot in the national championship game.
Boston University punched its ticket to Minneapolis with a 5-3 triumph against Clarkson.
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