April 23, 2012
Minnesota captured the 2012 NCAA National Championship
MADISON, Wis. – Make it a perfect baker's dozens of women's national championships for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers provided the frosting on the cake by taking a 4-2 victory over border rival Wisconsin in the all-WCHA national championship game Sunday, March 18 before a crowd of 2,439 at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth, Minn., at the 2011-12 NCAA Women's Frozen Four. This was a record 13th consecutive national championship (1 AWCHA in 2000, 12 NCAAs since) captured by a WCHA-member team.
Coach Brad Frost's Gophers (34-5-2/.854), who upended Cornell 3-1 in the second national semifinal on Friday night, March 16, claimed the third NCAA championship for the Minnesota program. Minnesota's two previous Frozen Four crowns came in 2004 and 2005, while UM also won the AWCHA-sanctioned national title in 2000.
Wisconsin, which had won four of the previous six NCAA Frozen Fours in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011, defeated Boston College 6-2 in the first national semifinal on Friday afternoon. Coach Mark Johnson's Badgers (33-5-2/.850) made their sixth appearance in the national championship game in the last seven seasons.
On March 2-3, Minnesota beat North Dakota 6-0 and blanked Minnesota Duluth 2-0 at AMSOIL Arena to win the 2012 WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF playoff championship and gain the league's automatic berth to the NCAA tournament – the Gophers' 10th in the 12-year history of the event. This was also their fifth visit to the Frozen Four and third in the last four years.
Minnesota advanced to the 2012 NCAA Women's Frozen Four with a 5-1 regional victory over WCHA-foe North Dakota at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis on Saturday, March 10. Wisconsin, meanwhile, defeated Mercyhurst 3-1 in their March 10 NCAA regional match up at the Kohl Center in Madison.
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association has had multiple teams in all but four NCAA Women's Frozen Fours – in 2001 (Minnesota Duluth), 2004 (Minnesota), 2005 (Minnesota), and 2011 (Wisconsin).
In the 12 years of NCAA-sponsored women's national championships, WCHA-member teams have won all 12 titles – Minnesota Duluth has five, Wisconsin has four and Minnesota has three. Wisconsin defeated Boston University 4-1 in the 2011 championship game at Tullio Arena in Erie, Pa.
The WCHA also dominated college hockey's individual awards with eight All-Americans and Wisconsin junior forward Brianna Decker being the recipient of the 2012 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, as announced by USA Hockey on March 17. The award is given annually to the top female hockey player in the nation. Decker accepted the 15th annual award at a brunch ceremony at the Greysolon Ballroom in Duluth, Minn., in conjunction with the 2012 NCAA Women's Frozen Four. The Dousman, Wis., native is the fourth Badger to win the award, joining Sara Bauer (2006), Jessie Vetter (2009) and Meghan Duggan (2011).
Along with Decker, fellow top-three finalists Jocelyne Lamoureux of North Dakota and Florence Schelling of Northeastern were honored at the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award ceremony. The trio of finalists were named to the CCM Division 1 Women's Hockey All-American First Team by the American Hockey Coaches Association with Minnesota defender Megan Bozek and Cornell's Rebecca Johnston and Laura Fortino. The All-American Second Team included Bemidji State goaltender Zuzana Tomcikova, North Dakota defender Monique Lamourex-Kolls, Wisconsin forward Hilary Knight, Minnesota forward Amanda Kessel and Ohio State forward Natalie Spooner.
Decker was also named the 2011-12 WCHA Player of the Year and was an All-WCHA First Team honoree, along with Lamourex, Spooner, Knight, Bozek, Anne Schleper of Minnesota and Tomcikova. Decker, Knight and Schleper are all repeat selections on the all-league squad and it is the third straight season Schleper has been honored. Decker led the nation in goals with 37 and tied for the national lead in points with 82. Earlier this season, she set the program's record for longest scoring streak at 32 consecutive games, recording at least one point in every game between Feb. 11, 2011 and Jan. 6, 2012. She also recorded 26 multiple-point games, 13 multiple-assist games and nine multiple-goal games this season. Decker sits fourth all-time at UW with 189 career points.
Lamoureux was honored as the WCHA Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year for 2011-12 in addition to earning the league's scoring title and All-WCHA First Team accolades. The junior from Grand Forks, N.D., maintains an outstanding grade-point average of 3.877 (4.0 scale), majoring in Physical Education, Exercise Science and Wellness, and has been on the Athletic Director's Honor Roll, the Dean's List and the President's Honor Roll at UND. She has been a WCHA Scholar-Athlete in both 2010-11 and 2011-12 as well as a member of the All-WCHA Academic Team. Lamoureux is actively involved with service activities on campus and in the Grand Forks community, including reading to elementary students and Special Olympic events.
Wisconsin's Stefanie McKeough, a junior defender from Carlsbad Springs, Ont., was honored as the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year in a vote of the league's head coaches. She scored four goals, had 14 assists and 18 points in 19 league contests for the regular season champion Badgers.
The WCHA Coach of the Year Award for 2011-12 went to Wisconsin's Mark Johnson, who led the Badgers to a 23-3-2-1 conference record and to the regular season title. It is the fifth time Johnson has either won or shared the award.
North Dakota forward Michelle Karvinen of Rodovre, Denmark was named the WCHA Rookie of the Year.
Joining UND's Karvinen on the All-WCHA Rookie Team were Minnesota Duluth forward Jenna McParland, North Dakota forward Josefine Jakobsen, Minnesota defenseman Rachel Ramsey, Minnesota Duluth defenseman Brigette Lacquette, and goaltender Julie Friend of St. Cloud State.
WCHA teams forged an impressive 36-7-6 record and .796 winning percentage against opponents from other Division 1 conferences this season. League-member clubs went 7-0-2 (.889) vs ECAC Hockey, 14-2-1 (.853) vs. the Hockey East Association, 9-5-3 (.618) vs. College Hockey America, and 6-0-0 vs. Independents.
Four Western Collegiate Hockey Association-member teams ranked among the nation's top 10 in the final two weekly national polls for 2011-12. In the USCHO.com Div. 1 Women's College Hockey Poll, the WCHA had national champion and WCHA FINAL FACE-OFF champion Minnesota at No. 1, WCHA regular season champion Wisconsin at No. 2, North Dakota at No. 6 and Minnesota Duluth at No. 10. In the final USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Women's Div. 1 College Hockey Poll, Minnesota was No. 1, Wisconsin was No. 2, North Dakota was No. 6 and Minnesota Duluth was No. 10.
The WCHA also had the top four teams in attendance for the women's game. Buoyed by the biggest crowd to ever watch a collegiate game – a total of 12,402 who saw Wisconsin blank Bemidji State 1-0 at the Kohl Center Jan. 28, 2012 – the Badgers attracted 56,471 to home games this season. That is an average of 2,689 per game. North Dakota was second in home attendance nationally (drawing 28,218 for an average of 1,455 per game), followed by Minnesota (27,658/1,307 per game) and Minnesota Duluth (22,435/1,181 per game.)