Northern Iowa over Kansas, Susan Boyle, and Cornell hockey. That is a short list of things I didn’t see coming. As the Cornell women prepared for their title game against Minnesota Duluth, not many gave the Big Red a shot to take home the title. No one was thinking the Big Red could pull off three upsets in one tournament(already beating Harvard and Mercyhurst). Would anyone see this coming? Could Cornell be the first team not from the WCHA to win it all?
I gotta say, Cornell got off to a nice start. Just like with the game against Mercyhurst, the Big Red came out aggressive and confident. The Big Red forecheck looked good and actually put lots of pressure on freshman goaltender Jennifer Harss. Although no one scores in the first, it really set the stage nicely for what was to come. The teams really seemed to match up well.
The second period Cornell was able to strike first. Cornell is very tough to beat when scoring first and they accomplished that first goal at 13:44 of the second. Melanie Jue got one by Harss on the power play. Cornell lead 1-0 after two full periods of play. UMD was a high powered offense was shut down by the shot blocking defense of Cornell. Was the impossible run possible?
The third period showed the grit and determination of UMD. Right off the drop of the puck in the third, Emmanuelle Blais scored on the power play to tie it up at one a piece. The Bulldogs then went ahead on another power play goal, this time by Jaime Rasmussen. UMD had their first lead and didn’t want to look back. Cornell wasn’t supposed to beat number one ranked Mercyhurst when they fell behind 2-1, but look how that game turned out. In fact, less than two minutes later Cornell did tie it up. Melanie Jue got her second goal of the game and played an outstanding game on the biggest stage. This would set up overtime.
So who would be more conditioned? Cornell boasted that they had the best conditioning coming into this match up and that was the key to beating Mercyhurst. Overtime had plenty of action. There was a lot of pressure on each goalie, as each save would be there biggest. Both teams were playing at a high level and it really was two great teams playing in a great game in the most important of times. There would be no scoring in the first overtime.
The Bulldogs won the title in 2003 in double overtime and that was currently the longest championship game in NCAA history. Would anyone see a marathon game coming? History would be made as the second overtime period came and went with no one scoring. Cornell really came to play in this game. The Big Red had a fearsome forecheck, while UMD countered with their speed. Blais seemed to want to take the game over at times, trying to create chances offensively.
So officially, this was now the longest game in NCAA championship history. Who saw a classic game between UMD and Cornell coming when this tournament first started? Or when the day started for that matter? I sure didn’t. The third overtime showed much of the same. Each team used their entire bench, as teams got tired, as was to be expected. There was plenty of scoring chances and even a Bulldog putting one off the post. The goal didn’t come till after a power play was killed off by Cornell deep into the third overtime. Jessica Wong scored with :34 seconds left to give this novel of a game a final page. Cornell goalie Amanda Mazzotta just layed on the ice as UMD celebrated. Mazzotta was outstanding, as was the entire team, but it wasn’t enough to keep UMD from their fifth title in 10 years.
I say again, who saw this coming? Cornell had never even had a winning season until this year. Cornell was in the tournament for the first time. Another tidbit people may not know is Ivy league schools cannot offer scholarships. On the other side, UMD had lost five girls to the Olympics this year. The Bulldogs weren’t supposed to be here. I think that says a lot about head coach Shannon Miller. I think her calm cool demeanor rubs off on her players. I didn’t see any panic of the girls faces even though Cornell wasn’t supposed to take the game into this sudden death stage.
I think overall this game was a victory for women’s hockey. It was a cinderella story versus a powerhouse program. It had drama. It had intrigue. It had it all. No one left Ridder Arena unsatisfied. No one asked for a refund.
Just to give you an idea of how close this match was; Power plays : UMD 2-8 and Cornell 1-6. Shots on goal: 64 -51 in favor of UMD. Faceoffs: 56-56. Scoring chances and blocked shots were almost even as well.
In other news, Vicki Bendus of Mercyhurst was announced as the Patty Kazmaier award winner for 2010. The award is given out annually to the top player in college hockey. Bendus beat out Minnesota goalie Noora Raty and New Hampshire’s Kelly Paton in the voting between the final three.
Don’t go far. Just because the Gophers season is over, don’t think I am going on vacation. I plan on some interviews and reports on new Gophers coming in and old Gophers leaving. I’ll take a look at the WCHA as a whole as well. Stick around!