The last time the University of Minnesota women's hockey team lost a game was Feb. 17, 2012. The University of North Dakota needed overtime to hand the Gophers their last loss, 2-1 fifty-one weeks ago.
Since that night the Gophers have won an NCAA record 38 straight games, including the 2012 Women's Frozen Four championship and 30 straight games during the 2012-2013 season. For some perspective, the previous record was 21 straight games, set in 2008 by Harvard. That streak incidentally was broken on Nov. 28, 2008 by the Gophers.
How does a team go about obliterating the record for the longest winning streak in the history of a sport? In the Gophers' case, you do it with a team that has no apparent holes in its game. They have a rocket-fueled offense and a rock solid defense. During their 38-game winning streak the Gophers have scored five or more goals in a game 26 times. They have also given up one or fewer goals in a game 28 times, including an incredible 17 shutouts.
During the 2012-2013 season the Gophers are outshooting their opponents by an average of 38-21 per game. They have outscored their opponents 168-27. They score on 34% of their power play opportunities and hold their opponents to 9% when shorthanded, surrendering only 11 power play goals against. Further, the Gophers have scored a staggering 12 shorthanded goals during the '12-'13 season meaning that the chances of the Gophers scoring shorthanded are roughly equal to the chance that they will surrender a power play goal. That kind of firepower is very intimidating to opponents.
Offensively the Gophers are led by junior Amanda Kessel, the sister of former Gopher and current NHLer Phil Kessel. Amanda Kessel has racked up 89 points in the 29 games she has played in this season (40 goals, 49 assists). Second on the team in scoring is freshman Hannah Brandt who has an impressive 26 goals and 41 assists for 67 points. Senior goaltender Noora Raty is 28-0-0 with an incredible .951 save percentage and a miniscule 1.03 goals against average. They are coached by 5th year head coach Brad Frost and three assistants.
Winning streaks get tougher the longer they go on. They almost take on a life of their own and players, coaches, others associated with the team on the streak eventually find it impossible to block the streak out of mind and concentrate on what is immediately in front of them and to keep doing all the little things that helped build the streak. That acknowledged, the Gophers have the look of a team that doesn't worry one bit about losing focus and will simply continue to steamroll opponents right through the Frozen Four.
The Gophers have what look like four easily winnable regular season games remaining. Bemidji St. will visit Ridder Arena this coming weekend (Feb. 15-16) and the Gophers will visit St. Cloud St. for games on Feb 22-23. Minnesota swept both opponents easily earlier in the season. Their biggest challenge in the WCHA tournament will likely come from North Dakota.
There is one last major factor that works in the Gophers favor in terms of continuing their historic winning streak and repeating as Frozen Four champions; both the WCHA Final Five tournament and the NCAA Women's Frozen Four will be played at the Gophers' home rink, Ridder Arena.
If you have a chance to do so, hockey fans, get out and see this team play.