Posted by Katie Peverada
Last year, I wrote about the University of Minnesota's women's hockey team and their historic 38-game win streak, a record at the time. The team went on to end the season undefeated and earn their second-straight national championship. Dating back to the 2011-2012 season, the Gophers had won 49-straight games and started this season with 13-straight wins too. But on Sunday afternoon, the historic winning streak ended at 62-straight victories. Facing off against the team that had given them their last loss all the way back on Feb. 17, 2012, Minnesota fell to the University of North Dakota 3-2.
To say The Streak (as it has become known in the college hockey world) was impressive is an understatement. They annihilated the previous-best Division I women's hockey winning streak of 21 games (owned by Harvard) and did the same to the men's record of 30 games (by RPI and Cornell). They almost doubled the previous best 32-game unbeaten streak, which counts ties, of the University of Wisconsin women's team and trumped the men's record of 38-straight unbeaten games held by RPI.
More impressive than the streak itself is how, for 639 days, the Gophers repeatedly dominated their opponents in nearly all aspects of the game. Minnesota outscored their opponents 311 to 63. During the 2012-2013 season - the meaty part of The Streak - the team led the nation in team offense with an average of 5.3 goals per game. Boston College was second with 4.3. During the three seasons that The Streak spanned, the Gophers have remained in the top five of team offense. Their highest scoring game was an 11-goal performance against Colgate University in 2012.
But, as all sports fans know, defense wins championships. In the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, the Gophers finished first in team defense nationally. In 2011-12, they only gave up 1.32 goals per game and followed that up in 2012-13 with an even stouter .88 goals per game. And through the first 14 games of the 2013-14 season, Minnesota sits at a very respectable fifth place, allowing only 1.43 goals per game.
So as impressive as the team offense was, so too was the team defense. When the defense was tested, it responded well. While only three of the 62 games went into overtime, Minnesota was obviously on the winning end of all three, including a three-overtime thriller against North Dakota in the NCAA quarterfinals in the 2012-13 season.
Only six of Minnesota's games were of the 1-goal-margin-of-victory variety, clearly in part due to the minuscule goals allowed per game and offensive output seen above. Every other victory was by at least two goals. They made national powerhouses look helpless.
The average margin of victory throughout The Streak? 4.25.
Minnesota trailed entering the third period only once during The Streak, which again can be either be attested to their outrageous offense or their stalwart defense.
While their team performance throughout The Streak was remarkable, the individuals that make up the team are some of the best in the world. The current US Olympic roster contains four players from Minnesota who were a part of The Streak, two of whom - Amanda Kessel and Lee Stecklein - will return next year after taking this year off to focus on Sochi.
Defensively, goaltender Noora Raty, a member of the Finnish national team since the age of 15, registered 20 shutouts in the 46 games she appeared in during the streak. Raty was the top goaltender in the nation in 2011-12, as she was first in goals-against-average (1.35) and third in save percentage (.942). Raty was even better the next season, registering a .964 GAA, a .956 save percentage and backstopping the Gophers to their second-straight national title.
Offensively, during the 2011-12 season, Minnesota had two players in the top ten in the nation in scoring in Jen Schoullis and Kessel. During the 2012-13 season, Kessel won the Patty Kazmir award and led the nation with 101 points (46 goals, 55 assists) despite missing three games due to injury. Fellow forward Hannah Brandt was second in the nation with 82 points (33 G, 55 A), and defenseman Megan Bozek was ninth with 57 points (20 G, 37 A).
Some were concerned that coming into this season, the Gophers would have trouble replacing the players lost from last year's team. But Amanda Leveille has taken over in net for the graduated Raty and is currently the sixth ranked goalie in the nation (1.43 GAA, .942 SV%); not bad for a goalie who only had three career starts coming into the season. And Minnesota is still producing offensively, with Brandt, Rachel Bona, Kelly Terry and Sarah Davis all sitting in the top ten in scoring.
The Streak might be over, but Minnesota is poised to win their third-straight National Championship. Even after their loss on Sunday, Minnesota remains in the top spot of the USCHO.com poll, a spot they have held since March 5, 2012.
Something that might last longer than the 639 days The Streak lasted is the impact that it has had on the world of hockey. Yes, there has been an increase in attendance at games and a boost in recruiting for a team that already had unprecedented depth. Perhaps the most telling evidence - sadly - was when the team was finally featured on Sportscenter last week. Minnesota scored two goals over the final 2:02 against St. Cloud to preserve their streak. Admittedly, it was a short clip that most people brushed off.
But in a world where what Tom Brady is wearing at his press conference takes precedent over one of the greatest feats in North American sports history, the Gophers finally received the acknowledgement they deserved.