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University of Minnesota women complete perfect regular season

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

Amanda Kessel (left) has led the University of Minnesota women's team to a perfect 34-0-0 record this season (Getty Images)
Amanda Kessel (left) has led the University of Minnesota women's team to a perfect 34-0-0 record. (Getty Images)

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Contradictory to popular belief, the Chicago Blackhawks are not the most dominant team in hockey right now. Sure, the Hawks set and extended the NHL record with points in their first 18 games this season, but that's nothing compared to what the University of Minnesota women's hockey team has accomplished.

With a 3-0 shutout of St. Cloud State on Sunday, the Gophers completed the first undefeated regular season in NCAA Division I women's college hockey, going 34-0-0.

Including the last eight games from 2011-12 season (in which Minnesota won the national championship), the Gophers have not lost or tied in 42 straight games, which is also a record.

This stretch of dominance only gets crazier upon closer examination.

During the 2012-13 regular season, Minnesota outscored opponents 184 to 29.

Let that sink in. The Gophers scored 155 more goals than their opponents in 34 games. That's probably because Minnesota, on average, out-shot its opponents 38.1 to 20.6.

Adding more fuel to the already intense fire, the Gopher women converted on 14.2 percent of their shots, were successful on 32 percent of their power plays and allowed goals on just 8.2 percent of their penalty kills.

While the team performance has been off the charts, some of what the individuals are doing defies logic.

Amanda Kessel, who is the younger sister of Maple Leafs sniper Phil Kessel, has proven that her brother isn't the only goal-scorer in the family and might not even be the best one anymore. In 31 games this season, Kessel scored 43 goals and registered 50 assists for a staggering 93 points to lead the nation. That's an average of three points per game and a near-record pace.

It would appear Kessel has the Patty Kazmaier Award all wrapped up as the nation's top female collegiate player. You're also likely to see her as part of the U.S. Olympic Women's Hockey Team in Sochi in 2014.

Kessel actually sat out the weekend series against St. Cloud with some injuries, meaning her quest for the NCAA record of 114 points in a single season -- set by former Gopher and U.S. Olympic captain Natalie Darwitz -- might have taken a hit. She still has the WCHA conference playoffs and national tournament, which will count toward her season total.

Meanwhile, the Gophers also boast the best netminder in the country and perhaps the world in Noora Räty.

The Minnesota senior and native of Finland was between the pipes for the 3-0 shutout against St. Cloud and now has 13 shutouts this season. The next closest goalies nationally have six. The whitewashing also tied Räty for the most career shutouts in women's hockey with 39. Räty also has a ridiculous .953 save percentage and 0.99 goals-against average to go with her 31-0-0 record this season. I hear that's pretty good.

Additionally, the Gophers have the nation's best freshman in Hannah Brandt. With 73 points, the 19-year-old trails only Kessel in the national scoring race, averaging 2.15 points-per-game. For playing her first year of college hockey, which, unlike the men's side, is where all of the elite players end up, this type of production is just ridiculous.

Minnesota will put perfection on the line in the postseason now and aim to become the first women's team to go wire to wire without a loss. More important, the Gophers will defend their national title.

Women's college hockey tends to fly well under the radar, despite the rapid growth of girls' and women's hockey overall in the U.S., but this is the type of dominance that gets people talking.

The future of women's hockey is on display at the University of Minnesota and does it look ever bright.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @chrismpeterson Twitter and like us on Facebook. Also, subscribe to our YouTube Channel.

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