Minnesota's Davis shows composure
Forward overcomes slow season start to deliver for Gophers
MINNEAPOLIS -- A team makes its name in the regular season but makes its living in the postseason, and Minnesota junior forward Sarah Davis absolutely proved her worth late in Friday night’s instant classic of a national semifinal game.
The Golden Gophers went into overtime for the second time in this year’s NCAA tournament on Friday -- Minnesota won its quarterfinal game against North Dakota on Mar. 16 in a third extra period -- but, on Friday, Davis made sure her teammates didn’t have to wait that long to taste victory once again.
Barely 90 seconds into OT, Davis took a feed in the BC zone from linemate Bethany Brausen before coming in alone on BC goaltender Corinne Boyles. She deked and dangled the puck around Boyles before scoring the game-winning goal in a 3-2 win for Minnesota.
The Gophers’ 40th win of the season and 48th in a row dating back to late last season came on Minnesota’s own Ridder Arena ice. They will be back there again on Sunday afternoon to vie for their second national championship in a row and fifth in program history.
A native of Paradise, Newfoundland, Canada, Davis was tied for 11th place in the Gophers’ scoring chart heading into Friday’s national semifinal against BC with seven goals and 17 assists for 23 points. However, it could be argued that few goals in the history of Minnesota’s program were bigger than Davis’s seventh of this season.
Davis had struggled this season to find the net -- she had almost twice as many goals (12) as a sophomore during Minnesota’s 2011-12 season -- but patience paid off in a big way on Friday.
Gophers head coach Brad Frost said after the victory against BC that the sort of composure and skill Davis showed in scoring Friday’s game-winner has made her an essential part of her team.
“Sarah’s got great patience, good hands and has been a little snakebit this year,” Frost said, “But she made the right play as [Boyles] came out and challenged and [Davis] made the right move and just did a great job putting it home. I think that goal probably lifted a real big weight off her.”
“Obviously we wanted to get [the winning goal] right away,” Davis said. “We didn’t want to play another three-period overtime game. The puck just came to me and I head-faked and shot it in. I am so, so happy it went in.”
Davis’s sense of humor is another reason she’s a crowd-pleaser in the Gophers’ locker room, and she exhibited that to the press when describing her celebration -- leaping into the glass separating the ice from the Ridder Arena stands -- at the end of Friday’s game.
“It could use some work,” Davis said. “I board-jumped and I always tell myself not to board-jump, but emotions took over. Everyone was just so pumped, and I am smiling like a fool right now, but it’s a great day.”
Frost joked about a correlation between her sense of humor and her being from Newfoundland, but he also praised Davis for what she contributes to the team both on and off the ice.
“She’s a classic Newfie, and she keeps our team loose,” said Frost, who also hails from north of the American border. “She loves our team and loves our program, and I’m so happy she chose to come to the University of Minnesota.
“She’s our best defensive center that we have, she’s the best on faceoffs, she blocks a ton of shots, she’s a great penalty killer, runs the half wall on our power play. Everything you want in a hockey player is Sarah Davis, but, more importantly, anything you want in a person is Sarah Davis. She is that good of a person.”
Davis is unquestionably one of the most colorful characters on this season’s Minnesota roster. Come early Sunday evening, she may also earn the right to be called a back-to-back national champion.