There’s watching your team win a title, and then there’s watching your team win a title live.
Then there’s watching your team win a title live THAT. WAY. Three straight overtime games, a grand total of 40:59 of overtime, three spectacular overtime goals. Elizabeth Giguere throwing down her gloves and stick with AUTHORITY. A tearfully happy Loren Gabel skating the trophy right over to the glass to celebrate with her father. Everything Shea Tiley…
I left Seattle, WA at about 1 AM Friday morning and landed in Minneapolis at about 6. I got to my hotel at around 7-7:30 and slept five to five and a half hours before going down to Ridder to watch the red carpet entrances, returning briefly to my hotel, and heading back down as soon as the arena opened.
Ridder Arena is a pretty sweet building, combining a spacious interior and lots of seats for women’s hockey with simple design. As the Gophers have been monumental, testaments to their history were everywhere.
Clarkson vs. Ohio State
I’m glad they didn’t make one team wear white because the color matchups were fantastic with Ohio State wearing their reds and Clarkson wearing their best jersey. The yellow jersey was, I believe up until the ECAC Tournament this season, the only one they hadn’t won a trophy in, capturing both previous National Championships in green and last year’s ECAC Tournament in white.
Watching games in person is different for me. Usually I have a couple videos open along with box scores and stats pages. I also have the higher camera view instead of being in rows 5, and 1 for the Frozen Four and Championship respectively. That said, it also gives the opportunity to see things I normally wouldn’t, movement away from the play, who is trying to get shots in behind the ref’s back and (most importantly) what is happening with the puck in greater detail.
I’ve seen people saying Ohio State was the better team than Clarkson (hey Nadine Muzerall), and while they had more shots, I felt like the teams were fairly even. I gave a slight edge to Clarkson because I felt like they were getting slightly more chances even though Ohio State was getting slightly better ones. Ohio State was also giving more shifts to their best players while Clarkson stuck with their strategy of rolling three lines for most of the game, rarely taking advantage of the TV timeouts to get their top line more icetime.
The game was also extremely physical which I felt favored Clarkson overall. The refs weren’t calling anything except the most obvious penalties and they let a lot of things go. Clarkson is a crafty team and takes advantage of that better than anyone.
And by the way, the penalty that saw Ohio State’s goal waved off was an obvious penalty. It happened right in front of me with Maddy Field throwing a body check on Rhyen McGill and knocking her to the ice as she skated up to cover the point shot that ultimately went in. I also contest that Field is, as Coach Muzerall said, bigger and stronger than McGill (they’re the same height, and while Field might have some weight advantage, McGill has more scrap), but she’s passionate about her team and she can say what she wants. No one fines you for saying stuff from your couch.
Sitting down the ice I had about the exact same look Loren Gabel did on the game-winning goal and I was out of my seat as soon as the puck touched her stick. She doesn’t miss that shot.
Wisconsin vs. Colgate
If you asked me before the game, I probably would have predicted a Wisconsin victory. I was thinking something along the lines of 4-2 while hoping it didn’t end up more like 4-0. But I also had a bit of a feeling about Colgate.
If I were to describe the Raiders in one word, it would be “weird.” Colgate is a weird team with a weird style, a weird roster build, and they often have weird results. Sometimes they just give up setting up on the power play and go for fast breaks. Often they’ll try to make a pass to the opposing blue line from behind their own net. They’ll throw a puck all the way down the ice over everyone’s head and let their players chase it and risk an icing. Their D join the play with abandon.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin plays “conventional” hockey about as well as you can play it outside of Potsdam. (And even the Knights have some uniqueness to their play style.) So it basically became Wisconsin’s ability to set up, cycle the puck, and pile up shots versus Colgate dumping it out and going for broke on the counter attack.
Wisconsin fans had a lot to say about the officiating, but they deserved almost all of the called penalties, and a whole lot more. They probably should have received at least one major. They play a great game skill wise, but couldn’t quite break down Colgate’s strategy, or keep their composure as the physical play mounted. Colgate did a great job of bringing the best of their game while cleaning up the worst of it. That’s why they won.
Clarkson vs. Colgate
Throughout the tournament, a lot of teams had to do a lot of things to succeed. Ohio State had to shore up their defending away from home. Colgate had to play more disciplined and not get out of position. Wisconsin had to be more creative and aggressive.
But Clarkson just had to be Clarkson. They had to play well (as they did not in the Mercyhurst game), but outside of that I don’t think they really needed to make any adjustments. Coach Matt Desrosiers echoed this in one of the press conferences saying that they don’t alter their playing style based on other teams, outside of tactical in-game adjustments. So what was the Clarkson strategy?
Keep it simple. One of the best things no one really says about Clarkson’s elite talent is that they know when to make the simple play and when to make the creative play. The top line doesn’t get hell-bent on passing or carrying the puck in. They don’t always try the fancy move to beat a defender. It’s a tough skill to learn to take the short, easy pass when you have the hands of Elizabeth Giguere or Michaela Pejzlova or the speed of Loren Gabel.
Pass well. One of the reasons Clarkson is so good is because they are the best passing team in the country. Their vision and their knowledge of where each other are on the ice is simply unmatched. They are close-knit and know each other extremely well.
Ride the horse that got you there. Throughout the tournament Clarkson never really deviated from the strategy that was successful all season long. They continued to roll three lines throughout the tournament, even during overtime and never wore out their forwards. They didn’t shuffle lines or defensive pairs.
The Championship game was very Clarkson hockey. They used a combination of speed and passing to get on Colgate early. The Raiders are a good team and they had their second period counter punch, but by someone’s count on Twitter, the high quality scoring chances through three periods were 24-13 in favor of Clarkson.
My seat was in Shea Tiley’s end for the overtime, but I walked around to the Clarkson shooting end because I felt it was only a matter of time and I wanted to celebrate with the pep band and the Clarkson faithful, and the parents, and get an up close view of the celebration.
And celebrate we did.
I believe Colgate head coach Greg Fargo summed up Clarkson’s victory with “a great player made a great play” which I think is exactly how you want to see a Championship end, especially in overtime.
Clarkson wins the 2018 National Championship.