Column: Gophers will reload after title loss, ya feel me?

March 24, 2014

I had to do a double-take when I read the final score of the Gophers women’s hockey team’s national title game over the weekend.

Clarkson 5. Minnesota 4.

What?

Clarkson 5. Minnesota 4.

In an attempt at a three-peat, Minnesota lost — something that at times seemed impossible over the last three years.

We all knew this run had to come to an end, but I didn’t think it would be this year. The loss marks the end of an era for the Gophers.

And it seemed like some of the Minnesota players knew it as the final buzzer sounded and Clarkson players littered the ice with equipment in celebration.

It was clear this one hurt — bad.

Still, what shouldn’t be lost in the disappointment is that this three-year run has been truly special, truly amazing and truly unprecedented.

We may never see a run like this again. In the last 36 months or so, the Gophers have garnered three national title game appearances, two national championships and one perfect season. All in all, Minnesota went 113-7-3 and lost just one postseason game.

You can’t ask for much more than that.

The Gophers often jumped out to big leads early and destroyed opponents late during that stretch. It was an extraordinary run of dominance from a team that has also, in that span, steadily put women’s hockey more firmly on the map. 

This wasn’t just a hockey team, though. It was a well-oiled hockey machine masterfully assembled by head coach Brad Frost.

It’s a given that every machine malfunctions from time to time, and that happened Sunday.

Clarkson, to its credit, didn’t back down from the No. 1 team in the nation. It used timely scoring, coupled with stellar play from star forward Jamie Lee Rattray, to stun the women’s college hockey world.

Though the Gophers may never reach the level of dominance we saw over the last three seasons, I have no doubts that this team will be back next year.

And they could be back better than ever. 

Olympians Amanda Kessel and Lee Stecklein will rejoin a relatively young roster next year, and Frost, per usual, has added another elite recruiting class to the fold.

Yes, it’s still unbelievable they lost this year.

Yes, we may never see a run like this again.

Yes, this one is going to sting the players for a while.

In the end, though, the Gophers will be back. This program doesn’t rebuild. It reloads.

Ya feel me?

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