As the clock inched closer to zero, Brad Frost reminded himself to watch his players celebrate. The head coach of the University of Minnesota Women’s Hockey Team wanted to be sure to take in the moment; the pure and unfiltered joy winning a championship brings.
The last time Frost experienced a moment like this was after the 2005 National Championship, as an assistant coach of the Gopher women’s team, celebrating and congratulating the rest of the coaching staff. However, caught up in the moment behind the bench, he missed the exuberance radiating from the ice.
On this day, as head coach, Frost wanted the indelible image of his players—the smiles, the dog pile, the celebration that coincides with triumph.
As the final buzzer rang and the Gophers secured a 4-2 win over rival Wisconsin at Amsoil Arena in Duluth for the 2012 NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey National Championship, the players raced towards goaltender Noora Raty in a blur of maroon and gold. Frost watched on as gloves, helmets and sticks rained down onto the ice, spoils of a season’s worth of hard work; breadcrumbs of a championship trail scattered along the ice leading to his players.
To win the NCAA championship, the Gophers rattled off eight-consecutive victories. Coming into the season, defending national champions always have a target on their backs. However, it didn’t seem to matter to Minnesota, as the team continued to build steam throughout the season. Game after game, the wins piled up like chicken bones at a wing-eating contest.
Ten in a row…
“We never set out at the beginning of the year to go undefeated,” Frost said. “If we were to lose a game and go on to a national championship, it’s still going to be a heck of a year.”
Then on Nov. 17, the team set the Division I record for wins in a season by a women’s hockey team. A 9-1 victory over Minnesota State, Mankato gave the Gophers their 22nd straight win. Funny thing, though, the team just kept on winning.
“We’ve got to prepare every game because you have the ‘M’ on your chest; then you have the bulls-eye on your back for being the defending national champ; and add the streak to it, everyone wants to be the one to break it.” Frost said.
It looked like the streak would end at 39 against a pesky Bemidji State. After an 8-0 whitewashing the night before, the Beavers came out ready to play, scoring the game’s first goal in the second period. The Gophers’ star, Amanda Kessel, evened the score before the end of the second frame and the two teams headed into the third deadlocked at one.
Bemidji jumped out to an early lead in the final frame, but the Gophers answered just a few minutes later on a goal from Rachel Ramsey. The teams would skate into overtime, the Gophers’ unblemished record on the line. However, the streak wouldn’t end on this night, as Mira Jalosuo popped home the game winner on a power play in the extra session for the team’s 40th straight victory.
“There are times that you have to create some adversity as a coach and times when you have to face it head on because of the team you’re playing,” Frost said. “It was a great rallying cry for our team and a great win in OT.”
Minnesota closed out the final weekend of the season with a sweep of St. Cloud State University for a perfect regular season: 34-0.
“The streak is great, but it’s not something we talk about a whole lot,” Frost said. “It’s in the past and we want to be in the present and continue to work towards the future.”
That future will be determined in the State of Hockey, as Minnesota has an opportunity to win outright on home ice for the rest of the season. They host Bemidji in the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Playoffs at Ridder Arena, followed by the WCHA Final Face-Off. Ridder also will be the site of the NCAA Frozen Four March 22-24.
Seven more wins and Frost will see his team repeat as national champions.
Seven more wins and the coach will get to see another golden celebration.
Seven more wins and he’ll have a front row seat as his team makes history.