MINNEAPOLIS -- As each second passed by in overtime, it became more obvious that No. 1 University of Minnesota needed a big play. Without it, the team's undefeated season, highlighted by blowout victories and shutouts, would end one game short of the ultimate goal -- a chance at a NCAA championship title.
It looked like the ideal time for the nation's leading point scorer, Amanda Kessel, to register her first tally of the game.
More seconds passed, however, and when Minnesota finally found the back of the net Friday evening during its semifinal contest against No. 3 Boston College, the goal did not come from a typical source. In fact, for only the second time this season, Kessel, who has 97 points in 36 games this year, did not find her way onto the score sheet.
Instead, forward Sarah Davis, who had scored just 23 points all season, wound up at the bottom of the celebratory pile. After all, Davis' shot 1:39 into overtime made its way by BC netminder Corinne Boyles, giving the Gophers a 3-2 victory over the Eagles at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, Minn., Friday evening.
"From day one we've been talking about how the depth of our team is our biggest strength," said Minnesota coach Brad Frost. "I've got all the confidence in the world in all of our lines and all of our kids. I knew sending them over that there was a chance that they would score, just like anybody."
Frost's confidence in his team would not have mattered as much, however, if the Gophers had not participated in such a hard-fought contest with the Eagles.
For three straight periods, BC battled with the Gophers, looking to become the first team in 47 games to defeat Minnesota. After 38 minutes of scoreless play, it looked as though the Eagles might have had a chance.
BC came up with the first punch when left wing Emily Field gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead over Minnesota on a power-play goal toward the end of the second period. For nearly four minutes BC held a lead over the Gophers - something opponents have only managed to do for 66:56 so far this season.
But the lead did not last long. Minnesota bounced back when freshman phenom Hannah Brandt tipped in a shot by defenseman Megan Bozek to even out the game at the start of the third frame.
With just under eight minutes remaining in regulation, the Gophers looked like they had taken control of the game with a goal by forward Becky Kortum - her 15th of the season. What could have served as a momentum shift, however, appeared to rejuvenate the Eagles as defenseman Lexi Bender picked up a rebound exactly two minutes later and put it by Minnesota goaltender Noora Räty to tie the game.
"Honestly, I had no doubt, nor nervousness, that we were going to lose," Kortum said. "And that speaks for the character of our team."
So with an evened out score of 2-2, each team pushed forward. While neither squad could find the back of the net for the rest of the third, Davis figured out how to make it work in the Gophers' second-straight overtime bout.
"We didn't want to play another three-period overtime game," Davis said, referencing Minnesota's previous win over the University of North Dakota in triple overtime last weekend.
With that in mind, when Boyles came out too far just over a minute into overtime, and the puck came to Davis, she faked her head and took a shot at a tough angle. Within seconds teammates covered up Davis as they celebrated the next step in their quest toward becoming the first women's hockey team in NCAA history to remain undefeated for the duration of a season.
"I am so, so happy it went in," Davis said with a wide smile after the game. "Beyond words."