HAMDEN, Conn. –Clarkson University sophomore Shannon MacAulay's (Mt. Herbert, PEI) breakaway goal with under five minutes to play proved to be the game winner as the 2nd-ranked Clarkson University Women's Hockey team defeated the top-ranked Minnesota University Golden Gophers 5-4 in the 2014 Women's Frozen Four National Championship game at Quinnipiac University.
The win is the first for any sport in Clarkson history.
The Golden Knights wrap up their most successful season in program history by earning their 31st win, going 31-5-5 and outlasting the Gophers in an incredible national title game. Minnesota falls just short of a third straight national championship, going 38-2-1 on the year. Clarkson becomes the first team to win the championship not from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, dating back to 2001.
After entering the third period tied at 3-3, the Knights would outscore the Gophers 2-1 over the final 20 minutes. The second line for the Knights got two shots on goal early in the third period as sophomore Olivia Howe (Moose Jaw, SASK) put a wrister on net and then senior captain Carly Mercer (Exeter, ONT) fired a slap shot from the blue line that was turned away by Minnesota netminder Amanda Leveille.
An interference call against the Gophers put the Knights on just their second power-play of the game with just over 12 minutes remaining in regulation. Both Mercer sisters put shots on net early in the man-advantage, but Leveille gloved each attempt. Styner would bring the puck in from the blue line and pass through the defense to Rattray, but she broke her stick when attempting a slap shot and the puck sailed wide of the net. Minnesota would kill the penalty and return to even strength with 10 minutes to play.
Clarkson would take the 4-3 lead when Rattray fought off a defender and brought the puck across the blue line into the Minnesota zone with 7:30 to play. Tapping to open ice along the line to senior Vanessa Gagnon (St. Constant, QUE), the assistant captain would bring the puck into the far circle before leaving it for classmate Vanessa Plante (Riviere-du-Loup, QUE). The defender, who entered the game with two goals on the season, fired a slap shot over the glove of Leveille to give the Knights the lead.
MacAulay would score the game winner at the 4:16 mark. Minnesota attempted to set up in the Clarkson zone, but MacAulay poked the puck away from the Gophers at the blue line and had an uncontested breakaway from center ice. Leveille came out to play the puck but MacAulay was able to hold it long enough and beat the goaltender with a wrist shot through the five-hole to extend the Clarkson lead to 5-3 with 4:16 remaining in the game.
The Gophers would answer at the 3:41 mark as Baylee Gillanders took the puck at the blue line following a scrum along the boards and fired a slap shot through traffic by senior goaltender Erica Howe (Ottawa, ONT) to cut the Clarkson lead to 5-4.
Multiple icing calls against the Knights kept the puck in the Clarkson zone for much of the final two minutes. Minnesota would call a timeout with 1:04 remaining in the game and pull Leveille, but the extra skater was neutralized by the Clarkson defense as they were able to carry the puck into the Minnesota zone and pin it against the boards behind the Gophers' net at the clock expired.
Howe made some fantastic saves against the top scoring offense in the country. She ended the afternoon with 34 stops.
Minnesota would get on the board first at the 9:40 mark as the Gophers won a faceoff in the Clarkson zone following an icing call. Rachael Bona won the faceoff and left the puck for Sarah Davis, who skated toward the middle of the ice and flipped a shot over the glove of Howe to give Minnesota the 1-0 lead.
Clarkson nearly responded as sophomore Cayley Mercer (Exeter, ONT) gained control of the puck behind the Minnesota net and attempted a centering pass that deflected off a Gopher defender and into the crease before Leveille covered the puck.
A boarding penalty would put Minnesota on the power-play with just over six minutes remaining, but the Knights used their top penalty kill in the country to deny the Gophers.
With 1:30 to play in the period sophomore defender Renata Fast (Burlington, ONT) took the puck end-to-end and centered a pass to senior Shelby Nisbet (Wiseton, SASK), but Nisbet could not get a clean stick on the puck and Leveille covered to force a faceoff.
On the ensuing faceoff the Knights would answer as MacAulay brought the puck through the crease and failed to get a clean look on net. As everyone crashed the net, junior Christine Lambert (Thetford Mines, QUE) was able to get a stick on the puck and poke it by Leveille to tie the game at 1-1. The goal was Lambert's ninth on the year.
Clarkson would immediately take the lead as Minnesota committed a hooking penalty but Clarkson retained possession. Pulling Howe on the delayed penalty, the puck eventually worked out of the right corner of the ice and over to junior Jennifer Shields (Ingersoll, ONT) at the far blue line. Shields fired a slap shot on goal that was redirected by Nisbet in front of the net to give Clarkson the 2-1 lead with 20 seconds remaining in the first period. The score was Nisbet's ninth on the year.
Howe made a number of impressive saves in the first period for a total of 11, while Leveille stopped eight shots. Minnesota attempted 25 shots in the period, but nine of them were blocked before they could reach the net by the Clarkson defense. Minnesota had only trailed after the first period four times this season.
Clarkson would capitalize on the 1:40 remaining on the hooking penalty that carried over from the first period senior Brittany Styner controlled the puck in the Minnesota zone and found MacAulay in front of the goal. MacAulay tapped the puck across the crease as she spun and found 2014 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner senior Jamie Lee Rattray (Kanata, ONT), who finished with a wrist shot by Leveille to double the Clarkson lead to 3-1. Rattray added to her team-high in goals with her 29th on the year.
An interference penalty against Clarkson led to another Gopher power-play, and this time Minnesota would cash in and cut the Clarkson lead in half. Maryanna Menefee received a pass from Dani Cameranesi on the backside of the net and beat Howe for Minnesota's second goal on the afternoon. NCAA points-leader Hannah Brandt also assisted on the power-play goal.
Minnesota tied the game minutes later as Bona put a shot through the five-hole of Howe to tie the game at 3-3. Davis and Meghan Wolfe were credited with assists on the play. The goal was initially waved off but after being reviewed it was deemed a score.
The Gophers would go on another power-play with under five minutes to play in the second period, but Howe made two impressive saves, one with her stick and the other her body, to keep the game tied at 3-3.
Clarkson would remain on the defensive when a hooking call with just under two minutes remaining forced them into another penalty killing situation. Killing off all but 16 seconds on the penalty, the Knights returned to the locker room tied at 3-3 after two periods. Minnesota dominated the second period after allowing the early goal, outshooting Clarkson 14-5. Clarkson took three penalties in the middle 20 minutes of play, making it hard to build any momentum on the offensive end.
Minnesota ended the game with a 38-28 advantage in shots but could not overcome a pair of two-goal deficits. The Clarkson penalty kill was strong as usual, allowing only one goal in five short-handed situations. Leveille ended with 23 saves.