Friday, 11 April 2014

Clarkson becomes first non-WCHA team to grab NCAA Frozen Four in high scoring contest

A total of nine goals were logged in a pulse-pounding NCAA Frozen Four contest destined to go down in history as one of its most important matches ever. With the defending two-time national champion Minnesota Golden Gophers entering the contest with a 38-1-1 mark, the crowd at High Point Solutions Arena in Hamden, Connecticut (site of the 2014 Frozen Four) could be forgiven if they believed the Gophers were the heavy favorites.

Opposing the Golden Gophers was an ambitious Clarkson Golden Knights program that had reached several milestones. From winning its first-ever ECAC regular season title, the Golden Knights were also competing in their first-ever Frozen Four.

Clarkson certainly entered the game with a significant boost of morale. The night before, the 2014 Patty Kazmaier Award was bestowed upon Jamie Lee Rattray, the all-time leading scorer in Golden Knights history. Having beaten Gophers skater Hannah Brandt for the honor, it was a foreshadowing of things to come.

After nine minutes of scoreless play to open the first period, Sarah Davis scored the game’s first goal. The senior from Paradise, Newfoundland provided the Golden Gophers with the 1-0 lead. Rachel Bona logged her 38 assist of the year on the opening tally.

With 1:23 remaining in the first, Clarkson would tie the game. Christine Lambert slipped the puck past Gophers backstop Amanda Leveille, who entered the contest with an NCAA-best 38 wins this season. Earning the assist was Shannon MacAulay, who would go on to have a memorable game.

Only 63 seconds later, Clarkson obtained their first lead of the day. Jennifer Shields and Shelby Nisbet would combine for the 2-1 advantage. It would prove to be costly for the Giolden Gophers as Rachel Ramsey was called for hooking.

Heading into the second stanza, Clarkson capitalized on the power play opportunity. Jamie-Lee Rattray would score at the 38 second mark as Minnesota faced a two-goal deficit. Assists were credited to MacAulay and Brittany Styner, who registered her 34th assist of the campaign.

The Gophers would bounce back with their own power play tally. With Clarkson sophomore Renata Fast being called for interference, Maryanne Menefee scored on Erica Howe to reduce Clarkson’s advantage to one goal. Less than two minutes later, Bona would tie the game as she logged her second point of the title game. Kate Schipper and Megan Wolfe logged the assists.

Despite outshooting Clarkson 12-4 in the second, the Gophers could not get back the lead. The first half of the third period would also result in a defensive stalemate as neither team was able to capitalize on power play opportunities (at 2:27 for Minnesota and 7:45 for Clarkson).

At the 11:32 mark, the tie was broken as Vanessa Plante logged only her third goal of the season. Gagnon and Rattray earned the assists as the Clarkson faithful roared in approval. Four minutes and 12 seconds later, Shannon MacAulay provided Clarkson with a two-goal cushion. Of note, she would be the only player in the game to log a point in each period.

Refusing to give up, the Golden Gophers struck back. Baylee Gillanders would score at 16:19 with Kelly Terry logging her 32nd assist of the season. Reducing Clarkson’s lead to just one goal, the Gophers continued to press, hoping to tie the game and force overtime.

Despite their best efforts, Erica Howe was solid between the pipes, nullifying any opportunity. Registering 34 saves (compared to Amanda Leveille’s 23), she helped preserve the 5-4 victory as the Golden Knights became the first non-WCHA program to claim the NCAA Frozen Four.

Rattray would finish her remarkable weekend by earning the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Award. She was also recognized as the Second Star of the Game, while MacAulay earned First Star nods. Minnesota’s Rachel Bona earned the Third Star. 

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