All Good Things Must End
Historic win streak may be behind them, but so is fan base as Gophers prepare for one in a row.
When the clock struck 0:00 and the horn sounded to signal the stunning end to the University of Minnesota women’s hockey team’s remarkable 62-game winning streak, the 2,435 in attendance at Ridder Arena on Nov. 17 had no choice but to react the way they did. They stood and bestowed a powerful ovation upon the Gophers as players comforted each other after a loss they knew in their hearts they had coming to them.
Gopher captain Bethany Brausen said the team was touched by the fans’ outpouring of affection.
“It’s one thing when you have a team that’s so supportive of each other and together and then you have a coaching staff that’s like that too, and really the backbone of the team,” Brausen said. “Then you look around and you’ve got thousands of people telling you they still love you even though you did lose that game and kind of a testament to the streak.
“That cheer might have been just as special as a big cheer after a big win.”
While it’s true those adorned in green and black were instead cheering as they basked in the glory of North Dakota’s 3-2 streak-ending win, fans of both teams could easily have been honoring a pair of fierce rivals for providing them with two hours of intense hockey and a thrilling finish.
“Neither one of us have time outs,” North Dakota coach Brian Idalski said. “Their kids are gassed; we’re gassed. It was a little reminiscent of the three-OT [game] to be honest with you. Kids didn’t have a whole lot left in the tank and they were just selling out all over the ice on both ends to finish that off.”
Ultimately, however, Minnesota headed to its locker room facing the finality of the streak and the reality that, despite how well UND played, a flat first period paved the path to defeat. Goals by Gracen Hirschy, Susanna Tapani, and Warroad’s Kayla Gardner in a 6:27 span staked North Dakota to what became an insurmountable three-goal lead less than 13 minutes into the opening period.
“We played a really poor first period tonight, and it ends up costing you a hockey game,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “We’ve been able to get away with it periodically, even last week against St. Cloud, we were down 2-1 after one, and we were able to climb back and win. Against a really quality opponent like that, it makes it a little tougher.”
To put the streak in perspective, the loss comes 639 days after North Dakota dealt Minnesota a 2-1 overtime loss on Feb. 17, 2012 also at Ridder Arena. The NHL, NFL, MLB, and NBA have each crowned two world champions since then, a Presidential race was run and decided, an NHL labor war was waged and resolved in that time, scores of college basketball players have completed their NCAA careers, and Lady Gaga’s antics barely raise an eyebrow thanks to Miley Cyrus.
Idalski was asked if ending Minnesota’s record streak carried added sentiment considering it began with a win over North Dakota.
“Mind-set-wise, we were coming in here to win points,” he said. “In the course of this season, that’s really all it was. When we beat them in March or something, then maybe I’ll dance a jig and I’ll be a little more excited.”
Not surprisingly, Minnesota came out flying in the second period and was all over UND as goals by Rachel Ramsey and Sarah Davis cut the deficit to one less than halfway through the middle stanza. But North Dakota goalie Lexie Shaw made 25 saves over the final two periods in keeping the Gophers at bay.
“I’m really proud of our kids and how they came back in the second and the third,” Frost said. “We had chance after chance and near misses and those types of things, but you just can’t play 40 minutes of hockey and expect to win.
“So, we’re not sad because it’s over, we’re happy because we were a part of it. I’ll tip my hat to anybody who can go to 62 or 63 games without a loss.”
But Gopher captain Bethany Brausen admitted to some sadness creeping into an obviously disappointed Gopher locker room.
“We’ve got an emotional group in there,” Brausen said. “We’ve got a lot of heart in that locker room. I think that I was, of the seniors, the only one that wasn’t completely a mess, so I tried to pull it together for the rest of the team there. I just said, ‘Guys, it was going to happen.’
“But the thing about this streak and the media attention with it, it was a great run, 62 games. I was lucky enough to be a part of all those wins. But as far as our team goes, our team is 13-1, not 62-1.”
Frost echoed those sentiments in calling the streak a special thing for all who have been a part of it.
“I think they helped grow the game of women’s hockey here in Minnesota and nation-wide, and that’s a huge testament to them,” Frost said. “There was a lot of pressure, a lot of media attention and a lot of excitement every time we stepped on the ice, which was great, but it’s over, and we’re happy to have been a part of it.”
An already important series at Yale this weekend has added significance now considering Sunday’s emotional loss and begs the question of how quickly will the Gophers recover from such a draining experience. If they follow their captain’s lead, there’s little reason for concern.
“I think that the emotions are going to take care of themselves,” Brausen said. “I think that we’re going to be so energized and ready to go. I think all week in practice we’re going to be buckling down, fixing those things that we do want to fix.”
Brausen adds the Gophers intend to bounce back by, “proving that we are the top team in the country … not only next weekend, but throughout the rest of the season.”