In a season loaded with records, the Gophers women’s hockey team claimed two more to end the Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular season this weekend at St. Cloud State.
With their 2-0 win Friday and 3-0 win Saturday, the Gophers became the first team in NCAA history to complete a perfect regular season.
Senior goaltender Noora Räty added another individual record by tying the NCAA record for career shutouts with 39. She is also one shutout away from tying the single-season record.
“It’s always nice to make some NCAA history,” Räty said. “I get my name on that record, but I feel like a big part of it also belongs to my team.”
Räty could’ve broken the record if she had played Friday night, but head coach Brad Frost decided to rest her. Räty said the day off from competition allowed her to put extra practice time in.
“I feel like I’m going to be more fresh now since I got a day off,” Räty said. “And going into [the WCHA playoffs], I feel like that’s going to help me.”
Frost said the decision to rest Räty was twofold. He also wanted to give freshman goaltender Amanda Leveille playing time.
“Amanda’s played very well for us this year,” Frost said, “and it’s been a hard situation as a freshman
goaltender playing behind the best goalie out there.”
Leveille made 24 saves Friday, while sophomore defender Rachel Ramsey and freshman forward Maryanne Menefee scored the Gophers’ two goals.
Räty wasn’t the only key player missing Friday. Junior forward Amanda Kessel sat out the entire weekend.
“She’s dinged up, and so we’re just trying to get her as healthy as we can before playoffs,” Frost said. “It was a hard decision with her chasing the NCAA record for points, but her health is more important to her and to us down the stretch here.”
Frost said it was difficult to play without the team’s leading scorer and power-play unit leader, but Kessel’s teammates played well.
Freshman forward Hannah Brandt said her team had to make adjustments without Kessel.
“It’s different without her in the lineup,” Brandt said. “It jumbled up the lines a little bit, which was kind of tough.”
Brandt scored the first goal Saturday, followed by senior forward Becky Kortum and freshman defender Milica McMillen. Brandt called the Huskies a very defensive team that made it hard for the Gophers to get close to the net.
The Gophers, who clinched the WCHA regular-season title three weeks ago, are 34-0-0 heading into next weekend’s WCHA playoffs. Frost said it will be a welcome change for his team to have something tangible to chase again.
“I feel like since we clinched our [regular] season championship, it’s been hard to kind of get excited for a game since there’s nothing on the line,” Räty said. “So I feel like the whole team is just excited for playoffs.”