When it comes to big games and big goals, Minnesota’s Bobbi Ross knows what she is doing.
Ross, last season’s WCHA Rookie of the Year, was the only returning member of Minnesota’s top-ranked power play unit last season. All that, as it turns out, was leading up to this year.
In the biggest game of her career, with her team facing the consensus No. 1 New Hampshire, Ross had the kind of performance that hockey players dream about — four goals on eight shots, including the game-winner with under two minutes remaining, to lead her team to a 5-4 victory before a home crowd of 2,876.
Each of Ross’s four goals against New Hampshire was distinct.
The first, scored just 46 seconds into the game, came when Ross took a pass from Erica McKenzie, and roofed a backhand shot over the shoulder of Wildcat goalie Melissa Bourdon.
On the second goal of the game, Andrea Nichols, from behind the net, shot a bullet of a pass in front to a crashing Ross, who deked the goalie and slid the puck past an extended leg pad.
The third goal came on what many consider the most exciting play in hockey — the penalty shot. The fact that the Gophers were trailing at the time, 3-2, made the play even more suspenseful than usual.
“I don’t remember ever being in a game with a penalty shot,” said her coach, Laura Halldorson. “We were trying to decide who should take the shot… Bobbi is calm, cool and collected, and she was hot tonight, so we went with her.”
A TV timeout allowed a few extra moments for Ross to collect herself before skating in alone.
“The extra time helped me,” she said. “I was just trying to get my legs to stop shaking.”
After skating in, Ross waited with the puck until Bourdon had committed, and slid the puck around her and into the net.
“It’s funny,” said Ross. “In practice, we had some extra time on the ice, and so I stayed on and one of the goalies stayed to help me practice. I tried out that move three times — I’m not very creative.
“I was just hoping that [Bourdon] wouldn’t read it.”
“I’ll give her credit,” said Bourdon. “She’s a great player, and she really knows how to put the puck in the net.
“A penalty shot is a penalty shot,” she continued. “I practice them a lot and I have a pretty good save percentage on them, so I felt pretty confident. Yeah, I’d like to have it back. But then, I’d like to have them all back.”
Ross added that the moves for the second goal and the penalty shot were identical. “Exactly the same,” she said. “You stick with what works.”
After she had tied the game, Ross nearly put her team ahead in the waning moments of the second frame when she clanged a shot off the crossbar, taking a shot from the middle of the slot.
“If we hadn’t won that game, I’d be hearing that crossbar for the rest of the year,” she said.
In the third period, Minnesota had a one goal lead thanks to a Becky Wacker goal, when three straight penalties against the Gophers gave the potent New Hampshire power play time to work.
Ross appeared on all three penalty kill situations, blocking huge shots from the point on the first and third kills. One of New Hampshire’s previous goals had come on a slap shot from the point, so the defense was crucial.
“Bobbi stopped more shots than I did tonight, I think,” said Minnesota goaltender Brittony Chartier.
New Hampshire eventually scored on the third power play — after Ross had left the ice. With the game tied at four, with just 1:51 remaining in the contest, Ross came through again with the game-winner off a nifty drop pass from Whitney Graft that was sent between Bourdon’s legs.
“We had a two-on-two, and I knew that I had to isolate the defenseman,” Ross said. “I saw that I had a chance to break for the middle, and I threw it at the net, hoping I could catch the goalie on the far side. I was just hoping, though. I didn’t really know.”
This was not the first time in her career that Ross has had a hat trick, or even a four goal game. In October, she scored a hat trick against rival Minnesota-Duluth, and the next weekend in early November, she scored four goals and had an assist against Ohio State.
While Ross most definitely had a good game, she was quick to share the accolades with her teammates.
“It was an intense game,” she said. “Everyone rose to the occasion.”
“You see an ‘A’ on Bobbi’s jersey [denoting alternate captain] and she’s just a sophomore,” said Halldorson. “That says something important about her and shows just what the other players think about her.”