Women's college hockey is a fledgling sport--the championship won by Minnesota at the Frozen Four in Durham, N.H., last weekend was only the fifth awarded by the NCAA--but it already has its emerging traditions. The Land of 10,000 Lakes is the sport's power seat: The Gophers also won the national title last season, and that was preceded by a Minnesota-Duluth three-peat from 2001 through '03. And Harvard is the women's version of the Buffalo Bills, having lost in the final three years running. Said Crimson coach Katey Stone after a heartbreaking 4-3 loss on Sunday, "I'm getting tired of this."
One other near-lock: Whenever Minnesota center Natalie Darwitz is on the ice, a Gophers goal is in the offing. Darwitz scored the game-winner against Harvard with 1:08 left, capping a season in which she set an NCAA women's scoring record with 114 points. "I didn't even know I had [the record]," Darwitz said. "I was so focused on winning the championship."
Harvard's best hope for stopping the Gophers next year might be to root for Darwitz to keep scoring. The junior from Eagan, Minn., who won silver in the 2002 Olympics, will try out for the '06 U.S. team in August and leave Minnesota early if she makes it.
COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA (DARWITZ)
WOMAN ON THE VERGE
Darwitz, who had three assists in the final, could leave school for the Olympics.