Women’s hockey: Transfer Savannah Norcross has played major role for Gophers
Norcross has 10 goals and 15 assists as No. 1 Minnesota heads into the WCHA playoffs
MINNEAPOLIS — The success of the Minnesota women’s hockey team this season has been found in the confluence of many people and experiences, among them a talented freshman class, new assistant coaches Natalie Darwitz and Jake Bobrowski and the program-wide desire to erase the taste of last season’s NCAA tournament snub.
And don’t forget Savannah Norcross, a senior from Lynn, Mass., who transferred from Boston College last August and almost immediately found a role among the Gophers’ high-powered top three lines.
“It definitely has exceeded my expectations,” Norcross said Tuesday.
What’s not to like?
The Gophers (26-7-1) are ranked No. 1 in both weekly polls, as well as the PairWise and RPI standings used to select and seed the NCAA tournament. They begin the WCHA playoffs on Friday against St. Thomas as the No. 1 seed after clinching the regular-season championship with a sweep of the Tommies last weekend.
Norcross is one of several players whose games has gotten better as the season progresses. She’s the right wing on a line with center Amy Potomak and Audrey Wethington that has combined for 31 goals and 48 assists.
“They’ve been tremendous,” coach Brad Frost said. “For a quote-unquote third line, they’ve been one of the best.”
The Gophers and Ohio State are the nation’s highest-scoring teams with 152 goals apiece.
Norcross decided to transfer last spring and set her sights on the WCHA. After meeting new teammates Taylor Heise, Emily Brown and Grace Zumwinkle at a USA national team tryout, she set her sights on Minnesota.
“I so wanted to be with a group of girls that wants to keep playing after college,” she said. “So, it was about pushing myself to be my best at all times, and that’s the way it is here. No one is checked out, if that makes sense.”
Norcross has 10 goals and 15 assists in 34 games this season and in last Saturday’s 7-1 victory over St. Thomas scored two third-period goals for her second multi-goal game. Last summer, she made the USA Under-23 roster and she plans to come back to Minnesota with her extra year of eligibility.
When Frost recruited Norcross through the transfer portal, Norcross said, he told her, “ ‘This group’s hungry,’ and that’s exactly how I felt.”
Hungry for more coaching, hungry for like-minded teammates, hungry for an NCAA title, hungry to be better.
“It resonated for me so much.” she said. “I’m not satisfied, and I don’t think any of the other girls are going to be satisfied until we win a national championship.”
Before a two-game series at Colgate on Oct. 22-23, the coaches made some line tweaks that have stuck. Potomak was moved to center between Wethington and Norcross, and freshman Ella Huber was moved from center to a wing with Peyton Hemp and center Emily Oden.
In the next series, two games against then-No. 1 Wisconsin in Madison, Potomak scored the game-winner in a 2-1 victory on assists from Norcross and Wethington.
“It’s that whole line, that’s kind of how they play,” Frost said. “And Amy’s got that skill. She can pull things off that most people can’t. She’s been very consistent for us.”
Norcross said Potomak carries credibility throughout women’s hockey.
“It’s not just fun to watch her and play with her, you want to play for her, because she plays so hard,” Norcross said.
Center Taylor Heise still leads the nation in scoring with 26 goals and 60 points, seven more than second-place Sophie Jaques of Ohio State. Heise’s six game-winning goals are second to Wisconsin’s Casey O’Brien (8). … The Heise-Catie Skaja–Abigail Boreen line has a team-high 51 goals and 88 assists.