Monday, March 19, 2012

Minnesota Wins Women's Division I National Title

Go, go Gophers.

The University of Minnesota bested Western Collegiate Hockey Association rival and defending national champion Wisconsin on Sunday afternoon by a 4-2 count at Amsoil Arena in Duluth, in the 2012 Women's Division I NCAA Championship Game. Minnesota won its third national title, and first since 2005 when it finished off back-to-back championships.

Amanda Kessel, a sophomore forward and the younger sister of the Toronto Maple Leafs' Phil Kessel, opened the scoring less than nine minutes into the contest for Minnesota. Sarah Erickson then staked the Gophers to a 2-0 lead, before Stefanie McKeough and Brooke Ammerman connected for the Badgers.

Emily West then tallied the game-winning goal on a penalty shot late in the first period, to give Minnesota a 3-2 lead, before Erickson added an insurance marker early in the third period. Noora Räty finished with 42 saves in net for Minnesota, while Alex Rigsby made 21 stops for Wisconsin.

The Gophers, who finished 34-5-2 overall, ended the season on an eight-game winning streak, and also won 13 of their last 14 outings. They won the WCHA Tournament with a 2-0 victory over Minnesota-Duluth on March 3rd, and then bested both North Dakota and Cornell in the NCAA Tournament before denying the Badgers (33-5-2) a second consecutive national crown.

Räty, a native of Finland, went 32-5-2 this season for Minnesota with a 1.33 goals-against average, a .941 save percentage and a nation-best 10 shutouts. Wisconsin native Kessel finished third in the nation in scoring with 31 goals and 48 assists for 79 points.

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