The most-decorated program in the history of the sport prevented the undefeated No. 1-ranked team in the nation from winning its first national title behind a game-winning goal from an Olympic silver medalist who is fresh off a comeback from an 18-month injury hiatus. That was the case in Amanda Kessel and the University of Minnesota’s 3-1 win over Boston College, last Sunday in Durham, N.H., giving the Gophers their fourth national championship in five years.
Sounds like an exceptionally compelling sporting event. And it will be really exciting to watch when CBS presents the game this coming Sunday, March 27, a week later on tape delay (11 a.m. PT, 2 p.m. ET).
In what is widely considered the busiest weekend on the sporting calendar, between the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball first and second rounds, the IAAF World Indoor Championships, NCAA Wrestling Championships and the conclusion of the World Cup Skiing season, it was easy for the event to be overlooked. Still, it shouldn’t have been buried to the back of the papers the way it was.
Playing devil’s advocate, as someone who primarily covers women’s basketball and was reporting on the Tempe Regional, all of the games were live on TV, which is great, but while the four number one seeds won their first round games by 52, 36, 34, and 30 points, and the two seeds won by 44, 42, 22, and 16, the Gophers and Eagles won their untelevised national semifinal games, both 3-2 in overtime. There is no denying the greatness of Geno Auriemma’s Connecticut basketball program, but the situation Brad Frost has built in the Twin Cities is pretty impressive, as well. Laura Halldorson won the first two of the Gophers’ six titles.
ESPN has done a marvelous job broadcasting the women’s basketball tournament. Unlike the track and skiing, the women’s hockey was reported on the scroll on the bottom of the picture, as was the recognition of Rachel Banham’s career-ending loss in the WNIT.
It weren’t just that the Women’s Frozen Four happened, it was the dramatic fashion in which it happened. To give CBS credit, with the game being on the broadcast station and not cable, that makes it shine alone. The Men’s Final Four is on TBS, and virtually every other NCAA final is on ESPN, including the Alabama-Clemson football championship from January. Here’s hoping, a nation of families can gather on Easter Sunday together to watch it and inspire young girls to play hockey- even if it’s a week delayed.
While we’re on the subject, another person who gets no credit from the mainstream media is Marcel Hirscher. The Austrian skier capped off his fifth-consecutive World Cup overall title last week to tie Marc Girardelli for the most all-time. No one else has won more than three consecutively. The 27-year-old is still in search of his first Olympic gold, winning the silver in the slalom at Sochi.