One of the great highlights of the 2012-13 hockey season was undoubtedly the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers accumulating a sparkling record of 41 wins and zero losses. In accomplishing the first undefeated season in NCAA women’s hockey history, two of their contributors just happen to be from Finland: goaltender Noora Raty and defenceman Mira Jalosuo.
Still beaming from the accomplishment, Raty said, “That is one of my biggest achievements in my life. Before the season, no one thought it was possible.
“Our coach (Brad Frost) said ‘Don’t measure your success based on wins and losses, ‘ ” she explained. “On the terms of our team, we measure our success by wins as we did not lose. It shows how hard we worked in the season and how hungry our team was.”
Having played with Raty for four seasons at Minnesota was Mira Jalosuo. An anchor on the Gophers blue line, she made her major national team debut for Finland in 2007. The undefeated season is a treasured one for her.
“I will always remember this season and the last,” she said, referring to the Golden Gophers also snagging the Frozen Four title last season. “We don’t notice what we have done, but no one will break it. Someone may tie it, but we were the first. Later in life, we will truly appreciate it, but it is amazing still.”
During the season, Raty broke the NCAA record for most wins in a career and tied the record for most shutouts. “It is always nice to leave your mark on history,” she said. “I will always remember it, along with our two national championships. The defence definitely helped me out a lot.”
For Raty, the opportunity to share this accomplishment with Jalosuo is a treasured one. “She is my best friend,” Raty said of her teammate on the college circuit, and on international ice. “We were roommates and played on the same team. There was not one fight in our four years; it is the type of friendship we have. I would not share this moment with anyone but her.”
The feeling was very mutual for the proud Jalosuo. “Noora is more of a sister for me than a friend. Winning a championship with her is amazing.”
When the two were being recruited in 2009, it was a coincidence that they both ended up with Minnesota.
“We were both recruited by Ohio State, Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota,” Jalosuo said. “I did not talk about my decision, but I had a feeling that Noora would select Minnesota. I thought it was the best opportunity for me and I was excited when she decided to go there.”
Having enjoyed so much success, Jalosuo hopes the momentum can be carried into this year’s women’s world championship in Ottawa. “There were lots of things our team can learn from the experience in America. If it worked for us in the States, why not try these things with our (national) team?”
Heading into the post-season, Raty was determined to complete the dream season and win the national title.
“Once the playoffs started, we wanted to win the national championship,” she said. “Before a game, sometimes you get a feeling that you might lose. We never had that feeling. Every game was 60 minutes of quality hockey. Sometimes we might fall behind, but we would always skate hard, come back and score enough goals.”
Heading into the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, two of Raty’s Golden Gopher teammates from that undefeated squad, Amanda Kessel and Megan Bozek, are suiting up for the United States. “Playing them will be an emotional game. Seven players from the Gophers (from various years) will be on the U.S. team.”
“I cannot remember the last time that I played Team USA. I believe it was in the last Olympics but it will be fun to play them,” Raty said.
Jalosuo is also excited about the opportunity to play her former teammates. “I am excited to play against them both. In college hockey, Bozek is the best defender and Kessel is the best forward. Sometimes you play against your own teammates but you don’t notice so much. We will definitely try to say to hi each other when we get the chance.”