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Clarkson dethrones Minnesota to win first NCAA Championship
The Clarkson Golden Knights did what many said could not be done. They ended the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ quest for a third consecutive national championship Sunday afternoon en route to their own national championship by a score of 5-4, the first of any Clarkson University athletic program.
“Just thrilled beyond belief, the girls believed in themselves all year and even coming into tonight I just had a feeling about the way they were going to come out and play,” said Clarkson co-head coach Matt Desrosiers. “I’m speechless right now. I think our girls have done a great job throughout the season proving that they belong on this stage.”
What seemed to be a defensive battle in the early half of the first period certainly changed in the waning minutes. Minnesota would open the scoring 9:20 into the opening frame when Sarah Davis collected the puck from the face-off circle and backhanded a shot past the glove of Clarkson goalie Erica Howe to put the Gophers up 1-0.
Minnesota looked to go to the locker room with the one-goal lead, but the Golden Knights had other plans. With 1:32 left in the first period, Christine Lambert poked the puck across the goal line to tie the game 1-1. Amanda MacAulay fed the puck to the front of the goal, where it met Lambert who swung at it until it trickled past Gophers net minder Amada Leveille’s left pad and in.
Clarkson would stay on the attack, and drew a penalty within the period’s closing seconds. During the delayed penalty and the extra attacker on the ice, Shelby Nisbet fired a wrist shot that found the back of the net to give Clarkson the 2-1 lead with 19.5 seconds left in the period. Cayley Mercer fed the puck to Jennifer Shields who passed to Nisbet. Nisbet released a low shot that redirected up and beat Leveille.
“We’ve had contributions all throughout our lineup, and that was no exception this weekend,” Desrosiers said. “We were confident with every line we had out there, both offensively and defensively.”
The Golden Knights would continue the second period where they left off as Patty Kazmaier award winner Jamie Lee Rattray would give Clarkson the 3-1 lead 38 seconds in. On the power-play time that existed from the first period, Brittany Styner initially took a shot on goal that MacAulay deflected to Rattray at the open side of the cage who then banged home the rebound.
“We normally start periods well and finish periods well, and this weekend that obviously didn’t happen in regards to not giving up goals at big moments in the game,” Minnesota head coach Brad Frost said.
Just as when it looked as if Clarkson would run away to the title, Minnesota showed why they are the defending champions. At the 6:09 mark, with Minnesota on the power-play, Dani Cameranesi slid the puck to Maryanne Menefree in front who tipped it past the right pad of Howe to cut the Clarkson lead to 3-2.
About two minutes later, a reviewed goal would prove to be legal as the Golden Gophers tied the game 3-3. Kate Schipper and Megan Wolfe connected on a nice passing play before throwing it to the front of the net where Rachael Bona knocked it past Howe.
If you would have asked any fan if they saw Clarkson and Minnesota tied after the second period, most would say no. If you had told them the outcome of the game after, many would not have believed you. After both squads traded chances for most of the period with both goalies coming up with big saves, Vanessa Plante fired a rocked from the point that beat Leveille glove side to give the Golden Knights the 4-3 lead.
About four minutes later, Clarkson would put the final nail in the coffin of Minnesota’s season when MacAulay intercepted a pass in her own zone, and skated on a breakaway to beat Leveille on the backhand, giving Clarkson the 5-3 lead.
“I tipped it off the girl’s stick, and I had a lot of time to think about it, but I didn’t freak out and just tried to stick with it,” MacCauley said. “I practice that move a lot.”
With time ticking down on their season, the Gophers stuck back to within one with 3:42 left in the third period. Baylee Gillanders sent a shot towards goal that deflected off of the skate of Shields and past Howe to make it a 5-4 lead for the Golden Knights. Minnesota threw everything at Howe for the rest of the game but to no avail. After the final buzzer, a sea of gold and green mobbed Howe and the Clarkson faithful cheered on the newly crowned NCAA champions.
The Frozen Four all-tournament team consisted of Minnesota forwards Rachael Bona and Hannah Brandt, and goalie Amanda Leveille. Clarkson’s Jamie Lee Rattray, Renata Fast, and Shelby Nisbet would also garner the honors. For Minnesota, the season ends with a 38-2-1 mark, with the Golden Knights’ season ending with a 21-5-5 record, and the big prize.
“Tonight, the big scoreboard said that we lost,” Frost said. “I would tell you that we won all year. This was an incredible team, incredible group of four seniors that helped change the culture of our program.”
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Former teammates behind opposing benches at the Frozen Four