Third straight title eludes Brausen, Gophers

Bethany Brausen spent the final weekend of her college hockey career in New England chasing a national championship. Brausen and her University of Minnesota teammates fell short of a third consecutive Division I women’s hockey title but she still leaves the Golden Gophers with plenty of achievements.

Clarkson halted Minnesota’s streak of national titles at two by upsetting the Gophers 5-4 on Sunday afternoon at High Point Solutions Arena in Hamden, Conn. Brausen, a 2010 Roseville Area High School graduate, is a senior captain for the Golden Gophers and has played in four NCAA tournaments and three Frozen Fours.

During Brausen’s career at Minnesota, the team won a pair of national titles and completed a perfect season in 2012-13 by going 41-0.

Minnesota spent the entire season ranked No. 1 in the country while Clarkson entered the Frozen Four fourth in the national polls. The Gophers lost just once prior to the post-season this year and continued to roll by winning the Western Collegiate Hockey Association tournament.

As the No. 1 seed in the eight-team NCAA field, Minnesota hosted a national quarterfinal at Ridder Arena on March 15 and came away with a 5-1 victory over Boston University. The victory clinched a spot in the Frozen Four for the third consecutive year and 10th time in school history.

Minnesota opened the Frozen Four on Friday with a come-from-behind, 5-3 victory over arch-rival Wisconsin. The Gophers trailed the Badgers 1-0 after one period and 3-2 after two before scoring three times in the third period to win the game.

Clarkson reached the national-title game by beating Boston College 3-1 in the quarterfinals and Mercyhurst 5-1 in the semifinals.

Like it did against Wisconsin, Minnesota found itself trailing Clarkson after the first period. The Gophers took the initial lead of the game on a goal by senior Sarah Davis. Clarkson answered with two goals in the final two minutes of the period and headed to the locker room up 2-1.

The Golden Knights added to their lead early in the second period but Minnesota battled back to tie it at 3-3 on goals by sophomore Maryanne Menefee and junior Rachael Bona.

With the score tied going to the third, neither team could find the back of the net through the first half of the period. With eight and a half minutes left in the period, Clarkson got one past Minnesota goaltender Amanda Leveille to make it 4-3.

The Golden Knights added to the lead with their fifth goal of the game four minutes later and it appeared they were on their way to the title. Minnesota wasn’t done yet, however, as Gophers senior Baylee Gillanders scored with just under four minutes to play.

That would be as close as the Gophers would get as Clarkson protected its precarious lead over the final 3:41.

The Gophers outshot Clarkson 38-28.

The championship was the first for the Clarkson women’s hockey program and the first NCAA team championship of any kind for the entire school.

The NCAA has held a Division I women’s hockey tournament since 2001 and Clarkson is the first team outside the WCHA to win it. Minnesota-Duluth won the first three and has five total. Minnesota and Wisconsin have four each and now Clarkson has one.

Brausen finishes her career with 51 points on 16 goals and 35 assists. She also leaves Minnesota as the program’s record-holder for total games played at 161, a mark she shares with fellow senior Gillanders.

In Brausen’s 161 games at Minnesota, the Gophers’ record was 139-17-5. Minnesota went 8-2 in the NCAA tournament and 15-1 in the WCHA playoffs with three titles during Brausen’s career.

Three of Brausen’s career assists came in NCAA tournament play. She got her first tournament point in last year’s quarterfinals against North Dakota and added another in the national semifinal against Boston College. Brausen added a third career tournament assist against Wisconsin in the semifinals last Friday.

Prior to playing at Minnesota, Brausen helped Roseville with the 2010 Class AA state championship and was named Ms. Hockey that same season.

Brausen was one of three former Roseville hockey players suited up for the title game on Sunday. Kate Flug, a 2013 Roseville grad, is a freshman forward for the Gophers. Flug capped off her rookie season with the Gophers with five points on two goals and three assists.

Clarkson also features a former Roseville player. Jenna Boss is a junior goaltender for the Golden Knights.

Boss, a 2011 Roseville grad, has appeared in only one game for Clarkson in her career while playing behind a senior netminder who has played in 140 games.

There could have been one more former Raider playing this weekend but Lee Stecklein, a 2012 Roseville grad, took the season off to compete with the U.S. national team. Stecklein, a member of last year’s undefeated Minnesota squad, made Team USA and won a silver medal in the Olympic games in Sochi, Russia. She is expected to rejoin the Gophers next season and will be a sophomore in terms of eligibility.

Division III

The Division I tournament wasn’t the only place a former Raider was playing in a Frozen Four last weekend. Kendall Evenson and her University of Wisconsin-River Falls teammates participated in the Division III women’s hockey Frozen Four in Plattsburgh, N.Y.

The Falcons claimed the third-place trophy with a 5-3 victory over the University of St. Thomas on Saturday. It was River Falls’ highest finish in seven trips to the NCAA tournament and the victory was the first in six Frozen Four games (three semifinals, three third-place games).

Evenson, a junior defenseman, has played in three NCAA tournaments and this was her first trip to the Frozen Four. River Falls also qualified for the tournament in 2012 and 2013 with Evenson on the roster but in both years the Falcons lost to Gustavus Adolphus in the national quarterfinals.

On Saturday, River Falls jumped on St. Thomas early and was never really threatened. The Falcons scored twice in the first half of the first period and increased their lead to three goals with a score early in the second. St. Thomas made it 3-1 three minutes later but River Falls opened the third period with two quick goals to squelch any hope the Tommies had of a comeback.

River Falls opened the Frozen Four on Friday with a 4-2 loss to Norwich in the national semifinals. Norwich led 2-0 after one and 4-0 before River Falls got on the board late in the second period. The Falcons made it a two-goal game with about six minutes left in the third but would get no closer.

St. Thomas ended up in the third-place game after losing 1-0 in overtime to Plattsburgh, which followed up that game by whipping Norwich 9-2 for the national championship. The title was the third for the Cardinals and first since 2008.

Plattsburgh is located in northeast New York state, about an hour south of Montreal.

River Falls secured its first trip to the Frozen Four since 2009 and third overall by beating Lake Forest 4-1 in the national quarterfinals on March 15. The Falcons never trailed in the game as they built a 1-0 lead after one period and led 3-0 after two.

The Falcons earned their way into the NCAA tournament by winning the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship. The Falcons opened the conference playoffs with a two-game sweep of Eau Claire and clinched the tourney title with a 5-1 win over Stevens Point in the championship game.

Evenson finished her junior season with one goal and seven assists in 29 games. Her lone goal this season was a game-winner and earned her a player-of-the-week honor. On Feb. 8 against Superior, Evenson broke a 2-2 tie with a goal at the 13:41 mark of the third period and the marker ended up being the game-winner, which earned her the team’s player-of-the-week award.

For her career, Evenson has two goals and 27 assists for 29 points.

Evenson, a 2011 Roseville graduate, was a member of the Raiders’ 2010 state championship team.

Brian Meyers can be reached at bmeyers@lillienews.com.

 

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