Counting down to the Frozen Four championship game on April 8, we feature some of the greatest moments from the NCAA Hockey Tournament in the history of ASN's family of schools. Today: Clarkson.
It was a tough start for the seven freshmen who began their Clarkson hockey careers against Minnesota in October 2010.
The Golden Gophers, one of the dominant teams in women's college hockey, shut out the Golden Knights in consecutive games, 5-0 and 3-0.
Nearly four years later, on March 23, 2014, those Golden Knights finished their careers against Minnesota.
This time, as seniors, they defeated No. 1-ranked Minnesota 5-4 in the national championship game, a sports moment judged the greatest in Clarkson history.
Minnesota had won the two previous national championships, including a 41-0-0 season in 2012-13. They also won the next two.
But the Golden Knights interrupted the Golden Gophers' dynasty with several firsts. Led by Jamie Lee Rattray, the first player in program history to win the Patty Kazmaier Award, the Golden Knights won Clarkson's first national championship.
They also became the first women's team from a conference other than the Western Collegiate Hockey Association to win the national championship.
Clarkson won the ECAC championship during a regular season that included a 6-2 victory against RIT in an outdoor game at Frontier Field in Rochester, N.Y.
Cornell may have beaten Clarkson 1-0 in the ECAC Tournament championship game, but Clarkson won a bigger prize after advancing to the NCAA championship game with victories against Boston College (3-1) and Mercyhurst (5-1).
The Golden Knights faced a Minnesota team that was 87-1-1 in its previous 89 games and hadn't allowed three goals in a game in more than two years. The Golden Gophers scored first, but Clarkson surged to a 3-1 lead on goals by Christine Lambert, Shelby Nisbet and Rattray.
But Minnesota scored twice in 1:48 to tie the game at 3 heading into the third period.
“Going into the third period we just said at the beginning of the year if we told you guys you have 20 minutes to win a national championship would you take it?” Clarkson co-coach Matt Desrosiers told the Watertown (N.Y.) Daily News.
“The confidence this team has, it hasn’t wavered all season long. I have not seen one glimpse of them thinking they could not win this game. Even when we were up by a couple and (Minnesota) started coming a bit, it never wavered.”
With 8:28 remaining, Clarkson took the lead for good on Vanessa Plante's goal. Shannon MacAulay added what seemed like an insurance goal on a breakaway with 4:16 left for a 5-3 lead.
Minnesota scored less than a minute later after pulling its goalie. But as their coach said, Clarkson never wavered.
“It’s unbelievable,” Rattray said, while still wearing her jersey almost an hour after the game. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. To play in my last game as a senior and to win the national championship is ridiculous to me. I really can’t believe it.”
Fittingly for seven seniors, their first title came against an old nemesis.
“We’re still kind of letting it sink in,” added Clarkson senior Brittany Styner. “For us to play our very first game against Minnesota, and to beat them in the national championship in our last one, we couldn’t be happier."
Video courtesy Clarkson Athletics via YouTube