Throughout much of this week, the discussion surrounding the 2014 Women's Frozen Four focused upon the semifinal match-up between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Both teams, the only two from the WCHA, had previously combined for 8 NCAA national championships. This time around their game was almost treated to the point where it could have been the de facto national championship game in Hamden, CT.
A funny thing, though. No one told the Clarkson University Golden Knights that.
Clarkson (31-5-5) became the first team from outside the WCHA to win the NCAA Women's Hockey Division 1 National Championship Sunday when the Golden Knights upset the two-time defending champion Minnesota Golden Gophers 5-4.
Goaltender Erica Howe stopped 34 shots Sunday for the ECAC regular season champions. Five different players scored for Clarkson, which became the first team this season to score more than three goals against the Gophers.
Despite Minnesota (38-2-1) getting on the board first with Sarah Davis scoring her 20th goal of the season 9:40 into the game, the Golden Knights came back with 3 goals in a 2:01 span.
Christine Lambert tied the game at 1 with 1:23 remaining in the first period. Teammate Shelly Nisbet, meanwhile, created a pair of chances when she beat Gopher goaltender Amanda Leveille on a delayed penalty call with 20 seconds remaining to give Clarkson a 2-1 lead into intermission. Jamie Lee Rattray, with UMN defenseman Rachel Ramsey in the box, then scored on the ensuing power play 38 seconds into the second period.
Just like that, Minnesota trailed 3-1.
The Gophers are tough to put away. Minnesota, which trailed 3-2 entering the third period of the semifinal game Friday before winning 5-3, came back to tie the game with goals 1:48 apart by Maryanne Menefee and Rachael Bona.
Both teams dug in as the Gophers' speed was met with Clarkson's tenacity. Leveille, who made 23 saves, was rarely tested during the second period, but her counterpart Howe more than made up for it with goaltending. So did Rattray, the 2014 Patty Kazmaier Award winner. Besides scoring a goal (a second was denied only by her stick breaking in front of an open net), she blocked Minnesota's best chance by Menefee late.
For everything Rattray did both tonight and Friday earned her the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
That determination spoke for the Golden Knights. Eventually Vanessa Plante beat Leveille on a shot through traffic 11:32 into the third period. Shannon MacAullay got what was proved to be the game winner with 4:16 remaining with lucky goal number 13.
There were chances, but despite a late goal by Baylee Gillanders it wasn't enough for Minnesota. The dream of a three-peat fell one game short. Clarkson, whose program began in 2003-04, was the team celebrating a championship after defeating a Gopher team which entered the game on a 25 game unbeaten streak and wins in 87 of its last 90 games.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate