HAMDEN, Conn. — The feeling was so fantastic that the Clarkson University women’s hockey team couldn’t even wait for the clock to strike zero before leaping off the bench to begin celebrating their national championship.
Clarkson’s players started to hop off the bench to go celebrate with goalie Erica Howe when there was still 0.7 seconds on the clock.
But it’s hard to blame the Golden Knights for being eager to start partying after a 5-4 win over two-time defending national champion Minnesota before 3,573 fans at Quinnipiac’s High Point Solutions Arena on Sunday.
Not only was Clarkson (31-5-5 overall) celebrating the first national championship by the school, the Golden Knights were celebrating the first national title in hockey by any NCAA Division I north country team.
What Clarkson also did Sunday was what many thought impossible, knock off a Minnesota squad that was 38-1-1 entering the game and had gone 87-1-1 in its previous 89 games.
“It’s unbelievable,” Clarkson senior Jamie Lee 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.”
Not only had Minnesota won the past two national titles, including a perfect 41-0 record last season, but the only national champions in women’s hockey since the start of the NCAA Tournament in 2001 had been Western College Hockey Association teams Minnesota-Duluth, Wisconsin and the Golden Gophers. Despite those odds, Clarkson’s players did not consider themselves to be underdogs in the game. It was that bravado that helped them skate with Minnesota and twice build two-goal leads during the contest.
“I had a feeling about the way they were going to come out and play,” Clarkson co-coach Matt Desrosiers said. “I knew they were not going to back down. I’m speechless right now.”
Clarkson sophomore Shannon MacAulay was asked if she considered this an upset and quickly said, “Absolutely not! I think we deserved this. We worked hard all year for it. We knew coming into this game we were going to give them a run. Yeah, Minnesota’s won it two years in a row, but that didn’t mean anything to us. We knew we were going to give them a game, and that’s what we did.”
As soon as the players got back in the locker room the team decided to take a selfie with backup goalie Emily Horn’s smart phone, then Rattray posted it on Twitter, tagging celebrity Ellen DeGeneres, who posted a similar photo while hosting the Academy Awards.
“We actually just thought of it,” Rattray said. “We just kind of pulled it off. It was kind of funny actually. It was one of the best pictures of the day. Maybe we can get on (DeGeneres’s) show, that would be cool.”
While the Golden Knights were hoisting the championship trophy over in front of their fans and the school’s pep band, the Golden Gophers were lined up on the blue line, appearing stunned at the outcome.
“Clarkson played a great hockey game and they earned the win here tonight,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “It’s tough to be in this situation. We’ve been on the other end of it and know how great it feels.”
Clarkson’s seven seniors started their careers with a pair of lopsided losses at Cheel Arena to Minnesota back in 2010-11, including a 5-0 romp in the season opener.
“We’re still kind of letting it sink in,” Clarkson senior Brittany Styner said. “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. We’re just proud of every single person and the support we’ve had is unbelievable. I think we’ve been confident the whole way here. We believed from the very beginning. We just went in thinking everything was going to go our way.”