Wrecking records

Noora Räty deflects a shot in the second period of the 2013 NCAA Women's Frozen Four Championship game at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis on March 24, 2013. (Ryan Coleman/Ryan Coleman, USCHO.com)
Noora Räty deflects a shot in the second period of the 2013 NCAA Women’s Frozen Four Championship game at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis on March 24, 2013. (Ryan Coleman/Ryan Coleman, USCHO.com)

As the saying goes, records are made to be broken, like the number of helpings of stuffing eaten at a single Thanksgiving feast. Some marks are just established to a point that they will be more difficult to reach, let alone improve upon.

Minnesota’s team record for consecutive wins received more attention than usual for the women’s game, so now that it is no longer being reset on a weekly basis, let’s look at a few achievements that while not unbreakable should prove to at least be break-resistant.

The 14th season of NCAA competition is currently underway. Once that lifespan has more than doubled and 30 seasons under the NCAA umbrella are complete, here are some of the entries that I expect to still appear in the record books.

Category: Team Goals Scored Per Game in a Season
Record: 6.47 — Harvard, 2002-03 (220 goals in 32 games)
Since Harvard set this record in 2003, no team has come within a goal per game of the mark. The top three averages in this category all occurred in the first three years of the NCAA era.

The general trend in scoring is down. The biggest reason why is that there are more good players than there were a decade ago. Back then, more mismatches would occur in the course of a game and a season. Today’s third and fourth lines are better equipped to defend against the best line in the league if need be.

A high percentage of those 220 goals were scored in a relatively small number of games. Two games against Boston College produced 24 goals, including a record 17 in the first meeting. A pair of games with Vermont yielded 22 more. Four contests versus Cornell resulted in 35 more Crimson tallies. Yale yielded 17 goals in two efforts. Colgate was touched for 16 markers in its couple of encounters. Harvard scored 104 times in the other 20 games, an average of 5.2 goals per game. Still very dynamic, but a figure more in line with what top offenses in recent years have managed to achieve. The weaker teams of today tend to be more defensively sound than teams from that era such as BC, Vermont, Cornell, Yale, and Colgate.

For that reason, I would expect that if this record does fall, it would happen for a team playing a schedule with a fair number of games against new teams. We have seen how quickly teams such as Lindenwood and Penn State were able to reduce their goals allowed, so that window is likely small.

Category: Points Scored Per Game in a Season
Record: 3.50 — Jennifer Botterill, Harvard, 2002-03 (112 points in 32 games)
The individual most responsible for boosting Harvard’s scoring average to such lofty heights was two-time Patty Kazmaier Award winner Jennifer Botterill.

Centering a line that typically had future Kazmaier winner Julie Chu on the right wing, Botterill routinely produced games that would be considered good months by most players. Kicking off the season with a nine-point game at Vermont, including an NCAA record seven assists, she would set the current NCAA record with 10 points against Boston College in January, a mark tied by Nicole Corriero the next season.

Ridiculous as her production was, the total could easily have been even higher. Botterill was held to just four points in her final three games, the ECAC final and two rounds of the NCAA Frozen Four. By comparison, she piled up 17 points in the three prior games. She also missed January games versus Yale and Princeton, or her total of 112 points would have increased.

In the same season, Botterill set the NCAA record for assists per game for a season at 2.03. With only  her final two seasons counting toward the official NCAA statistics, she also holds the records for highest career per-game averages for goals (1.44), assists (1.63), and points (3.07).

Category: Goals Per Game in a Season
Record: 1.64 — Nicole Corriero, Harvard, 2004-05 (59 goals in 36 games)
Nicole Corriero didn’t possess the all-around game of Botterill, but she sure could finish. For the 2004-05 season, Corriero’s job was frequently to hang around the weak-side post in the offensive zone and wait for someone like Chu or Sarah Vaillancourt to get her the puck.

Corriero succeeding in burying the puck 59 times that year, and only Meghan Agosta found the net more than her 150 goals in a career.

Because she only played 36 games in her record season, the total of 59 could prove more breakable than her per-game average. A player could reach 60 goals in 41 games by averaging 1.46 goals per contest. Given nobody has come closer than a dozen goals less, both records are likely safe.

Category: Saves in a Game
Record: 90 — Nicole Hensley, Lindenwood, March 1, 2013, versus Robert Morris
The official NCAA record book still displays the 78 saves made by Desirae Clark against Harvard on March 19, 2005 as the record. Whether that is an oversight or Nicole Hensley is not eligible because Lindenwood was still transitioning to an NCAA program last season, I don’t know. She denied 90 D-I shooters in a legitimate D-I game, so Hensley’s 90 saves is good enough for me.

To set such a record, a goalie has to first face that quantity of shots. Then she must stop enough of them to continue both the game and the opponents’ incentive to keep firing. Hensley wound up in front of 92 shots from the Colonials, saving 90 of the first 91, before Cobina Delaney scored at 8:04 of the third overtime to send everyone home.

Even for a three-OT game, that’s a lot of shots. By comparison, Kristen DiCiocco only had to deal with 42 attempts on the other end of the ice. Harvard had 83 shots in the game in which Clark established the record, one that was four minutes plus longer. In other famous triple-overtime games, like North Dakota at Minnesota last year, Boston University at Cornell the season before, and the Minnesota-Duluth and Cornell championship game or the Harvard at Wisconsin four-OT game in 2007, no team got above the 60s in shots.

For her career, Hensley currently has 1,631 saves. Projecting the pace that she’s established at roughly the halfway point of her sophomore season through another two and a half years worth of games, she is on target to reach 4,349 saves. The NCAA record for a career is 3,809, set by Brianne McLaughlin at Robert Morris. Clark at Mercyhurst, McLaughlin at Robert Morris, and Hensley at Mercyhurst — I wouldn’t have necessarily anticipated it, but apparently the CHA is the league for a goaltender who wants to stay busy.

Category: Team Penalty Minutes in a Season
Record: 675 — Minnesota, 2008-09 (40 games, 16.9 minutes per game)
When Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux came to play for Brad Frost at Minnesota, he likely anticipated that they would contribute to some record-setting performances for his team. I doubt he expected this to be the most enduring.

While the twins blazed the course, they were hardly alone. Melanie Gagnon, Rachael Drazan, Sarah Erickson, Emily West — a lot of people knew the way to the penalty box.

By the time Minnesota won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013, the Gophers had reduced that average of 16.9 minutes per game to 9.9 and 8.9 respectively. So while a team could certainly commit penalties at a higher frequency, the surprise may have been that Minnesota was still playing in a 40th game after spending almost a period per contest on the kill.

Thanks to some penalty-marred finishes to games, Ohio State, Bemidji State, and Mercyhurst are all committing penalties at a higher rate to this point. With 23.1 minutes per game, the Buckeyes could exceed 675 minutes by their 30th game, but it is unlikely that the average remains in that stratosphere, unless something special is planned for their rematch in Bemidji.

As for whether the single-game penalty totals that Buckeyes and Beavers set on Nov. 8 in Columbus will last, including 26 penalties for 173 minutes by OSU and 49 penalties and 318 minutes by both teams, that will depend on many factors, including whether a pair of future referees really want to note that many infractions. The Buckeyes in that game wound up just one minute short of the 174 minutes in penalties that Yale was assessed for the season in 2000-01, fewest in the NCAA era.

Unbreakable records
With its perfect season, Minnesota established some records that will be mathematically impossible to break, although they certainly can be equaled. Those include: fewest losses, zero; winning percentage, 1.000; and goalie winning percentage, Noora Räty, 1.000.

The team’s 41 wins can’t be surpassed by any of the current schedules, given the limit of 34 regular-season games, the fact that no conference requires a team to win more than four times to win the conference tournament, and the NCAA tournament has a maximum of three games. A future increase in games by increasing the 34-game limit or expanding either tournament could change that.

Räty set a number of other individual records that may be broken eventually, but doing so won’t be trivial. Those include: save percentage for a season, .956; save percentage for a career, .946; career wins, 114; season shutouts, 17; and career shutouts, 43. It will be interesting to see which one endures the longest.