2004 NCAA Champions
2003-04 Schedule/Results | Photo Gallery | Four third-period goals carry Gophers to title
The Golden Gopher women's hockey team coined the phrase, Get It Done for the 2003-04 season. After falling short in the semifinals of the Frozen Four the past two seasons, the Gophers were determined at the beginning of the season to not only win the semifinal contest, but a national championship as well. Minnesota went undefeated in the first half of the season, holding a 13-0-1 record. By the end of the first half, Minnesota was not only highly recognized in the league, but the nation as well. Minnesota led the country in scoring offense, power-play efficiency and penalty kill.
Minnesota's heart of the schedule started in the second half of the season. In two months, the Gophers faced five ranked opponents. The first test came against WCHA rival Minnesota Duluth. The Gophers fell for the first time in 15 games, 4-1, to the Bulldogs. However, Minnesota rebounded to earn a 4-3 overtime win against UMD. The victory would come at a price however, sidelining Natalie Darwitz for 10 games. With a sweep over St. Cloud State on March 5 -6, Minnesota clinched the WCHA regular season championship, posting a 19-3-2 mark in conference action and the top seed in the WCHA Final Five. Defeating Ohio State, 5-1 in the semifinals, the Gophers faced UMD for the tournament championship. The Gophers won, 4-2, over the Bulldogs to win the tournament championship.
With the No. 1 seed in the 2004 Frozen Four, the Golden Gophers drew Dartmouth in the semifinal game. The Big Green entered the first intermission with a 1-0 lead, but the Gophers came back to tie the game at 12:11 of the second period. Entering the third period in a 1-1 tie, Minnesota opened the third period with four unanswered goals for the 5-1 victory. Wendell led the charge with three of the Gophers' five goals. It was the first time in three years that the Gophers advanced to the NCAA Championship game.
Minnesota's next opponent was Harvard. The Maroon and Gold fell behind early when the Crimson took an early 1-0 lead in the first period. Minnesota tied the game, 1-1, when Wendell scored, but Harvard added a goal at 12:21 of the second. Minnesota tied the game when Andrea Nichols scored on a perfect pass from La Toya Clarke to enter the final period in a 2-2 draw. For the second time in two games Minnesota rattled off four goals in the third period for the 6-2 win. Darwitz scored just nine seconds out of the second intermission as she set an NCAA record for the fastest goal coming out of an intermission. Kelly Stephens added the insurance goal 32 seconds later at :41 of the third stanza. It was the first NCAA championship for any women's sport at the University of Minnesota.
Wendell, a first-team All-American, led the Gophers with eight points in the Frozen Four, garnering the Most Outstanding Player award. Darwitz, Horak, Stephens and Allie Sanchez all landed All-Tournament Team honors. Wendell and Darwitz each had hat tricks in the Frozen Four, while Stephens scored five points. Horak ended the Frozen Four with 52 saves, a .945 percent save percentage and a 1.51 goals against average.
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