HAMDEN, Conn. Clarksons strength and conditioning coach Tad Johnson carried a special passenger on his back to join the on-ice celebation after the Golden Knights defeated the University of Minnesota 5-4 in the national championship game Sunday at Quinnipiacs High Point Solutions Arena.
Johnson had sophomore defenseman Erin Ambrose, who has an injured ankle, riding piggyback to go and join her teammates in the party.
Ambrose, a native of Keswick, Ontario, who was the only defenseman in the nation to be a Patty Kazmaier Award finalist, suffered her ankle injury late in Clarksons ECAC Hockey semifinal game against Quinnipiac two weeks ago.
Despite missing her 50 points (14 goals-36 assists), Clarkson became just the second team in the past 90 games to defeat the two-time defending champion Golden Gophers.
I couldnt be more proud of this group of girls, Ambrose said. The four (remaining) defensemen, they played their hearts out. Im so proud of them.
I just wanted to get out there as soon as I could to be with my team. Im so proud of what theyve done. Theres not a more deserving group of girls, thats for sure.
Ambrose, who is considered a candidate for the 2018 Canadian Olympic team, showed a lot of maturity while dealing with a difficult situation.
I just tried not to change anything (with the team), she said.
The only difference, as I looked at it, was I was not going to be out there. Obviously I was supporting these guys with everything I had.
Theres not much I could do (about the injury), but thats part of hockey. Our team did a great job of playing our hockey and the result is a national championship.
Have you ever wondered what goes on in a goalies mind when a national title game is tied 3-3 in the third period?
You just hope its not a goal on you thats coming, Clarksons Erica Howe said. You just play how youve been playing all game. You cant get too worried about it. Bounces are going to happen. You just have to stay focused and keep playing your game.
It was Clarksons 11th womens hockey team that won the schools first national championship.
But members from the past made their way to Sundays championship game to root on the squad, including Lindsay Williams, who played on the first four teams in school history.
Its so unbelievable, Williams said. When I saw them (online) in the semifinals I knew I had to come see them in the finals. Its something from day one, when we started this whole program, we always imagined this day of that team in the future making it to the national championships. For it to come along this quickly, its just unbelievable.
Clarkson may have been the team playing in the national title game Sunday, but there was a strong St. Lawrence University influence as well, as co-coaches Matt and Shannon Desrosiers each are former St. Lawrence University players.
Shannon was coached by former SLU womens coach Paul Flanagan, who now runs the Syracuse program, and Matt was coached by former SLU mens coach Joe Marsh.
I think you take a lot from the coaches that you played for, Matt Desrosiers said. You see the tendencies that helped develop you and what worked for you and your teammates and try and draw upon those.
I thought Joe was just very passionate about everything that he does. That was something that he relayed to the team. He always put the team first. He never singled anyone out in these kind of press conferences, or anything like that. He never took any of the credit. He always gave a lot of the credit to the players. You definitely knew that he wanted to win and that he would do anything for you. He was a guy you wanted to play for.
ALMOST A LOCAL
Minnesota goalie Amanda Leveille, a sophomore, grew up in nearby Kingston, Ontario.
Despite growing up a little more than an hours drive from Clarkson and St. Lawrence University, Leveille was not too familiar with either school. She did play on the same Canadian national team with Clarkson defenseman Erin Ambrose, and competed against Clarkson goalie Erica Howe and forward Jamie Lee Rattray in practices in Canada.
I talked to Clarkson a big (during recruiting), but they had Erica Howe so I think they are pretty set in net, Leveille said. Shes awesome.