Kristen Campbell stood in her goalie crease at People’s United Center, looked at the clock, threw her stick and blocker over her head, jumped into the air and celebrated.
Five days shy of the two-year anniversary of when UND cut women's hockey, the former UND goalie was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Frozen Four as she led her new team, the Wisconsin Badgers, to a national championship Sunday.
Campbell made history by becoming the first goaltender to go start-to-finish in the NCAA tournament without allowing a single goal.
Campbell, of Brandon, Man., blanked Syracuse 4-0 in the quarterfinals, shut out defending NCAA champion Clarkson 5-0 in the Frozen Four semifinals and stymied rival Minnesota 2-0 in the national championship game Sunday in Hamden, Ct.
“Obviously, it’s been a pretty chaotic journey,” Campbell said of the past two years. “With everything that happened, the best thing we could do is put our best foot forward for whatever program we landed on. Our goal was to represent North Dakota well and take everything we learned at North Dakota to our new programs and try to make a difference in them.
“Coming into North Dakota as a freshman, our goal was to win a national championship. It’s crazy how your journey unwinds, but I couldn’t be more thankful and grateful for everyone who was a part of my journey -- especially everyone at North Dakota who helped me build for that moment at hand on Sunday.”
Campbell’s former UND teammates Anna Kilponen, who now plays at Quinnipiac, and Abbey Stanley, who plays at Boston University, were at the game to support Campbell, as was former UND student Gabs Fundaro, who worked with the women’s hockey program.
“They were my family,” Campbell said, “They’ve seen me at my worst. Now, to have them see me feeling my best, it was special to share those moments with them.”
Campbell was the last UND player to leave Grand Forks after the program was cut in 2017. She stayed in town throughout the summer to train with U.S. Olympic stars Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux. She also has spent time working with former UND standout goalie and Hobey Baker Award finalist Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, who plays professionally in Austria.
Campbell, who has earned back-to-back All-American honors, reached the Frozen Four last season but lost a double overtime game in the semifinals.
That loss stuck with Campbell.
The night the team returned home to Madison, Campbell was fixated on the loss and didn’t know what to do. She started writing down her feelings and thoughts. She wrote 25 pages.
Then, she printed out a picture of People’s United Center, host of the 2019 Frozen Four, wrote “March 24” on it, and taped it to the back of her door. Every morning when she woke up, she saw it.
She gathered all of her calendars and planners and circled March 24th. She opened up her cell phone and set an alarm for March 24th that said, “win a national championship.”
“I had to make that connection,” Campbell said. “My mental game is so important for me. I think if you’re holding that vision in your head, there’s no way you’re not going to achieve it.”
Campbell also posted a chart on her wall of every game the Badgers have played this year. After each game, she marked down ‘W’ or ‘L.’
When she got home late Sunday night, she finished off the chart.
“Honestly, it’s been incredible,” Campbell said. “I can’t put it into words.”