Here’s what the majority of hockey fans know about women’s college hockey this season: Minnesota was [expletive] incredible.
The Gophers had captured two straight NCAA Frozen Four titles. They were the No. 1 team from start to finish this season. They saw a 62-game winning streak end in November, and then went on another 26-game winning streak to end it.
They were a hockey superpower, and acted the part: Can you imagine the level of confidence and hubris it takes for a team in the NCAA final to wear their white jerseys in anticipation of a three-peat because they already won in their maroon and gold ones?
Here’s what hockey fans know about women’s college hockey after Sunday at TD Bank Sports Center, in the Frozen Four final: There are no coronations.
Or if there are, Clarkson University wasn’t going to be a party to it.
We know what you’re saying: What is a Clarkson University? It’s a private school of about 3,500 students in Potsdam, New York. It’s only Div. I sport is men’s and women’s hockey, and it’s actually turned out some familiar NHL names: Todd Marchant, Kent Huskins, Dave Taylor, Willie Mitchell and the incomparable Grant Clitsome.
But it never had an NCAA championship, which is a hell of a thing for a school founded during the Grover Cleveland administration. Until Sunday happened.
The Clarkson Golden Knights upset Minnesota, 5-4, on third period goals by Vanessa Plante and Shannon MacAulay, on a brilliant breakaway.
OH DEAR LORD WE USED THE ‘U’ WORD.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Clarkson’s victory is that they’re apparently completely obvious to the fact that they were the underdogs in this game. Which, granted, is probably beneficial when both teams are on the ice and Clarkson wants any inkling of awe or intimidation eliminated from their thinking. But when the smoke clears, this is still a private school in Bumblefrack, NY, beating a team with one loss in its last 88 games.
But in their postgame comments, no one on the corner has swagger like Clarkson:
“We deserve it. We worked hard all year for it. Yeah, Minnesota won it two years in a row, but that doesn’t mean anything to us.” - Shannon MacAulay, Clarkson forward
“2014 is a completely different year. We didn’t care how many national championships [Minnesota] had won -- this was our year.” – Carly Mercer, Clarkson senior forward.
“I don’t consider this an upset. Obviously, you have the rankings and everything else. They’re a great team. Second loss they had all season. That’s incredible. But it’s tough to gauge. We don’t get to see these teams all the time. I think our girls have done a great job throughout the season proving they belong on this stage.” - Clarkson co-coach Matt Desrosiers.
That last quote is great because it manages to dog Minnesota and the WCHA, pretty much.
Don’t get us wrong – we’re not calling Clarkson sore winners or anything.
On the contrary, the idea that a team would topple a champion looking for a three-peat – that, again, has one loss in its last 88 games – and answer the inevitable Cinderella questions with “Underwhatnow? Uh, sorry, but we’re every bit the hockey power that Minnesota is” has to be one of our favorite reactions by an unlikely champion we’ve seen recently.
And by “unlikely” we mean “is making its third Frozen Four appearance in 14 years.”
Basically, we’re just happy to finally see a Clarkson excel at anything in hockey this season.