Every weekday from May 23-June 7, we will be looking back at the "Dandy Dozen" moments from the historic 2015-16 WCHA season. Next up on our countdown is…
Moment 1: Gophers Win National Championship
Once again, the premier conference in women's college hockey is home to the sport's Division I national champion.
For the 16th time in the league's illustrious 17-year history (and for the 15th time in 16 possible NCAA tournaments), a WCHA team will raise the national championship banner, as the Minnesota Golden Gophers won their second-straight title and seventh in program history. Minnesota, which ended Boston College's bid for a perfect season with a victory in the national championship game, captured its NCAA-record sixth Frozen Four crown (and fourth in the last five years under head coach Brad Frost).
The Gophers began their ninth-straight appearance in the National Collegiate Women's Ice Hockey Championship (and 14th all-time) with a 6-2, quarterfinal round victory over Princeton at Ridder Arena. After spotting the Tigers an early, 1-0 lead just 29 seconds into the game, Minnesota scored the game's next six goals – including a hat trick from senior forward Amanda Kessel. Fellow senior Hannah Brandt tallied a three-point effort (1g-2a), while the Gophers received two assists apiece from Lee Stecklein and Kelsey Cline, along with goals by Sarah Potomak and Dani Cameranesi.
Making its NCAA-record 12th Frozen Four appearance, Minnesota advanced to its fifth-straight national title game with an epic, 3-2 overtime victory over Wisconsin in the semifinals. After freshmen Taylor Williamson (Minnesota) and Sophia Shaver (Wisconsin) traded goals in the first period, Emily Clark gave the Badgers a 2-1 lead with 18 seconds remaining before the second intermission. However, Kessel answered with the equalizer 27 seconds into the third period, before Potomak scored the unassisted winner at the 15:00 mark of overtime.
Potomak, the Frozen Four's Most Outstanding Player, helped ensure that the 2012-13 Gophers remain the lone undefeated team in NCAA history, scoring just 13 seconds into the national title game to put Minnesota on top, 1-0, in an eventual 3-1 victory. The freshman then assisted on Kessel's third-period marker, part of a two-goal final stanza that gave the Gophers a 3-0 lead over a Boston College team that entered with a perfect 40-0-0 record. Kelly Pannek tallied the final UMN goal, while senior goaltender Amanda Leveille – who stopped 69-of-72 shots in the Frozen Four – cemented her spot on the All-Tournament team with a 32-save effort. Kessel and Stecklein, along with Potomak, also garnered All-Tournament honors.
Minnesota finished the 2015-16 campaign with a 35-4-1 overall record, including a 24-3-1-0 mark in WCHA play. Among the season highlights for the national champs:
- Minnesota led the nation in attendance for the fourth straight year, averaging 1,671 fans per game. At home at Ridder Arena, the Gophers also led the NCAA with 2,125 fans per game.
- Potomak, who led NCAA freshmen in scoring with 54 points (15g-39a) and 1.42 points per game, was named the National Rookie of the Year by both the Women's Hockey Commissioner's Association and USCHO. She also garnered WCHA Rookie of the Year accolades.
- First Team selection Brandt, along with Second Teamers Cameranesi and Stecklein, gave Minnesota a trio of All-Americans.
- Brandt, Cameranesi, Stecklein and Leveille were all named to the All-USCHO Second Team, with Potomak earning a spot on the All-Rookie Team.
- Brandt, Cameranesi and Stecklein (First Team), along with Milica McMillen (Second Team) and Potomak (both Third Team and All-Rookie Team) were all honored with All-WCHA selections.
- Four Gophers finished the season ranked among the nation's top 12 scorers. Cameranesi (33g-35a), Brandt (25g-39a), Potomak (15g-39a), and Pannek (23g-29a) ranked fourth, fifth, eighth, and 12th, respectively, in total points. Minnesota's offense ranked second in the NCAA at 4.67 goals per game.
- The Gophers set an NCAA record with a 42.2 power play percentage (46-for-109). Cameranesi led the nation with 13 power-play goals, which ranks fourth in Gopher all-time single-season records.
- Minnesota's five seniors, Brandt, Brook Garzone, Kessel, Leveille and McMillen, make up the program's most successful class in program history with an overall record of 148-9-6 for a .926 winning percentage from 2012-13 to 2015-16.
- Leveille finished her career as the NCAA's all-time leader in both save percentage (.947) and winning percentage (.897). In four years with the Gophers, she posted an overall record of 98-9-5 with 32 shutouts. Her career goals against average of 1.18 is the best in Minnesota history and ranks second in WCHA and NCAA history.
- Brandt and Kessel wrapped up two of the all-time great careers in Minnesota and WCHA history (see Moments #6 and #7, respectively).
Minnesota's previous national championships came in 2000 (AWCHA), along with 2004, 2005, 2012, 2013 and 2015 (NCAA).
"Dandy Dozen" Moments from the 2015-16 WCHA Season
12: Trio of New Coaches Join WCHA
11: Husky Pride
10: Record-Setting Year in Bemidji
9: The Next Level
8: Final Face-Off Championship Game Aired Live on FOX Sports North
7: Kessel Returns to the Ice
6: Brandt Concludes Historic Career
5: Wisconsin Returns to Top of WCHA Mountain
4: National Award Winners
3: WCHA Comprises Half of Frozen Four Field
2: 10 Hours, 24 Minutes and 18 Seconds of Scoreless Hockey