MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota downed Minnesota State, 9-1, and set an NCAA record by winning 22 consecutive games, eclipsing the victory string compiled by Harvard in 2008.
“We set the record with this year’s team, but last year’s team was a big part of it as well with the streak,” coach Brad Frost said. “It’s pretty remarkable to win 22 games in a row and not have a loss.”
Most of the players only became aware of the possibility of setting a record on Friday, according to co-captain Megan Bozek.
“It put a little bit of pressure on the weekend, especially coming in with an unbeaten record this year,” she said.
Amanda Kessel, the country’s leading scorer, supplied two goals and three assists, and she got plenty of help. Defenseman Bozek scored twice and added an assist, Maryanne Menefee contributed a goal and two helpers, and Kelly Terry chalked up four assists for the Gophers (14-0-0, 10-0-0 WCHA).
“Coach kept saying, focus on the process of getting there instead of actually focusing on the record,” Terry said. “Now that we have the record, it’s something that we can celebrate. Everyone is cheering in the locker room. We have such a good group of girls that it’s just really fun to share with them.”
For the second straight day, the Mavericks (4-8-2, 2-7-2-1 WCHA) kept the scoreboard even for the first half of the game, but the second 30 minutes held a different story. Minnesota scored the last eight goals to pull away in front of 1,558 fans.
After being dominated early, as the hosts had the first 12 shots and a power-play goal by Hannah Brandt, the Mavericks climbed back into the game when Minnesota got into penalty trouble. Lauren Smith tallied her seventh goal of the year on a five-on-three power play to knot the score at one at 17:18 of the first period. Emilia Anderson and Lauren Barnes assisted.
Halfway through the contest, MSU became the team that drew the attention of the referees, and the Gophers’ power-play converted on four of six chances to break the game open.
“You can’t sit back and wait,” MSU coach Eric Means said. “I thought we were scared and hesitant, and that’s a combination to lose when you play a team like this”.
Bozek pounded home a shot from the low slot at 10:54 while Minnesota was skating with a five-on-three advantage of its own to put her team ahead to stay.
Just 26 seconds into the remaining power play, Terry found Becky Kortum alone on the weak side for a 3-1 lead.
“I did think we had a good start of the second period,” Means said. “We’re on the power play there, had a good look at it, and then had a couple good shifts right after that. But then we went to the box and they scored back-to-back goals there five-on-three and then on the five-on-four. That kind of took the steam out of it; it really did.”
Rachael Bona and Mira Jalosuo also scored for the Gophers.
“I had a few assists there, and it came from a variety of lines — awkward changes and things like that,” Terry said. “I think distributing the points evenly kind of got our team going a lot. We seemed to have chemistry throughout all of our lines tonight. Hopefully, we can carry that on to our next games.”
Both teams switched goaltenders in the third period. Noora Räty made six saves to improve to 13-0 on the year and record the 21st straight win for her personally. Amanda Leveille took over after the second intermission and denied all four shots that she saw. Danielle Butters played just over 50 minutes for MSU, saving 36 of 44 shots before giving way to Erin Krichiver.
Minnesota limited its guests to just 11 shots for the game. Terry eliminated one chance when she skated back hard to poke the puck away from a Maverick who was heading in alone.
“Can’t take that much credit; had some speed going, and she was pretty flatfooted,” Terry said. “Actually, our goaltender Amanda Levveille was kind of mad at me. She wanted a chance at that breakaway, and for sure she would have saved it anyways. I got a few taps on the shinpads. That was another thing that got our team going.”
The Gophers have now outscored their opponents 84-8 on the season.
“I think that can talk for itself a little bit,” Bozek said.
The opposing coach provided some insight beyond the numbers.
“Not only do they have great players, but they got a lot of good players,” Means said. “They just Hockey 101 you to death. They’re not extremely fast. There’s faster teams out there. Just the way they use each other; they talk. They can make you look silly if you watch the puck. That’s what they did to us tonight. They’re just hockey players.”
Means doesn’t have to worry about the Gophers for a while, as the Mavericks’ focus turns to a series hosting Bemidji State.
“Unfortunately, we’re on a six-game slide here,” Means said. “We played an extremely difficult schedule. We’ve got to start taking care of our own business and win games that we have opportunities to win.”
Now Frost starts to hear the questions on whether his team can go undefeated.
“No — I have no idea,” he said. “We’re a long ways away yet and still have some tough games coming up just in the first half. We’re going to keep trying to play our best and play well and see what happens.”
Bozek is a little more open to the possibility of an unprecedented season.
“I think the way that we’ve been playing, it’s definitely a possibility, but anything can happen on any given day,” she said.
The next given days arrive in New Hampshire as Minnesota travels to take on the Wildcats on Saturday and Sunday.