Photo: Marlin Levison | Associated Press
As the cliche goes, much of life is simply showing up. The Badgers vacated the building after Emily West’s penalty shot goal, with their first line unable to capitalize on some good chances (elevate that puck, Brooke Ammerman!) and then the offense as a whole foundering as Sarah Erickson put them in a deeper hole. They looked anemic and lost through much of the third period. Minnesota took advantage of its opportunities, and Noora Raty was outstanding in goal, allowing the Gophers to capture a national title for the first time since 2005. Part of the blame for the Wisconsin loss should also be laid at the feet of Mark Johnson, who is obviously a stellar coach but should have put Hilary Knight back on the top line after the team failed to score in the second period, or at the very least after they went down two. There’s no point being dogmatic when you have twenty minutes left in your season. But the fact that the Badgers were up two players in the final minutes and still failed to even get a goal back is indicative of the lack of offensive creativity shown by the team, and the strength of the Gopher penalty kill in this game. After a first period in which they were dreadful defensively and literally were running into each other, clearing out a player actually seemed to help improve their defensive organization.
Among the more amusing slash depressing aspects of the game was watching the commentary of fans by the side of the broadcast screen. You certainly wouldn’t know that these are two of the best public universities in the nation by some of their graduates’ poor use of English and general boorish sentiments. Here’s a tip: if you can’t spell an insult, you shouldn’t be using it. But at least the fans put aside their hatred of each other to unite in hatred of Notre Dame and trade classist insults about North Dakota.
The Gopher and Badger programs had been passing the top spot back and forth all season and the outcome of this game was very much in doubt. In the end, it came down to execution, at which Minnesota was the victor. Both teams will lose crucial seniors next season, although Wisconsin will suffer more. Both teams continue to recruit well. But the Western teams’ hegemony over the title can’t last forever, and the next few seasons may see the rise of teams that can regain the glory days of the East.
Programming note: I am still in the appeals process for the inexplicable suspension of The First Line’s Twitter account, so there will be live blogging rather than live tweeting of upcoming events such as the Clarkson Cup and World Championships.