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Kessel Hat Trick Takes Minnesota to Frozen Four

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Minnesota crushes Princeton on route to the Women's Frozen Four, winning 6-2, and Amanda Kessel earned a hat trick during her last Ridder game as a Gopher.

Defense Sophie Skarzynski seemlessly transitioned to Minnesota's third line late in the season.
Defense Sophie Skarzynski seemlessly transitioned to Minnesota's third line late in the season.
Cat Lenander

Saturday afternoon Minnesota hosted Princeton for the NCAA quarterfinals. Whoever won got to pack their bags for the Frozen Four in Durham, New Hampshire next weekend. Surprisingly, it was Princeton who scored first. Kelsey Koelzer fired on goal from near the blue line and while Amanda Leveille deflected the shot, Molly Contini caught the puck and passed across the crease to her teammate, Jaimie McDonell. McDonell banged it home high on the right side just 29 seconds into the game. The goal went under review, but was declared good.

While the goal was startling, the Gophers didn't let it faze them. Hannah Brandt drew a roughing penalty on Koelzer four minutes into the period and then tied the game as she fell at the crease 47 seconds later. Amanda Kessel and Lee Stecklein had the assists. Then at 5:51 Dani Cameranesi went to the box for interfering with Morgan Sly. However, the power play wasn't particularly helpful for the Tigers because as soon as Megan Wolfe gave the puck to Kessel, she raced up the right side and made a shorthanded goal before being pushed into Princeton's goaltender, Kimberly Newell, at 6:01. Brandt had the second assist.

Princeton made several decent attempts on goal. However, when Leveille stopped an attempt by Fiona McKenna late in the first period, the skater then elbowed her right her mask's grating, knocking the goalie to the ice. McKenna zipped out of the crease with two Gophers hot on her tail and seconds later Milica McMillen pinned her to the boards. McKenna went to the box for goaltender interference, while McMillen received a coincidental for roughing at 14:34. Despite what had looked like a bad hit from the stands Leveille stayed in the game and played solidly for the rest of the game. Shortly after the concurrent penalties ended Contini hooked a Gopher as she entered Princeton's zone, knocking her to the ice. The Tiger protested the penalty, but still had to sit out for two minutes at 17:11. Twenty-four seconds power play Kessel netted her second of the night with a high shot from the left circle, Brandt and Stecklein assisting.

Second period was a near constant Gopher onslaught. Newell faced twenty shots in this period alone and a lot of them were great ones from Minnesota's second and third lines.  Kate Schipper nearly scored on a break away, but she waited too long to make her shot. Eventually Minnesota broke through Newell again when Sarah Potomak carried the puck to the crease and made a sharp shot that hit the goaltender and then bounced into the net at 14:24. The goal was reviewed, but eventually declared good, then defenders McMillen and Sydney Baldwin were awarded assists. Shortly thereafter Cameranesi streaked down the left side and scored her 33rd goal of the season with a high shot at 16:36, Kelly Pannek and Kelsey Cline assisting. Less than a minute later Kessel completed her hat trick with low shot on goal that looked like it went through Newell's 5-hole at 17:02. Potomak and Cline assisted her.

Once third period started Minnesota liberally deployed their fourth line. Later they were scrambled with the first and second lines to give those skaters better scoring chances The Gophers also became a little more defensive, which allowed the Tigers to make more runs into their zone, but didn't do them any good. Minnesota still spent most of the period in their zone. Cara Piazza took a slashing penalty at 10:06, but Princeton was unable to convert. As the last minute ran out the crowd rose to their feet clapping and cheering the Gophers' victory. This was slightly marred when Karen MacDonald's shot from the left dot was redirected into goal by Contini, McKenna had the second assist, with 2.8 seconds left in the game, but that didn't ruin the effect. The Gopher's last Ridder Arena game of the season was a stunning 6-2 victory where they dominated 59 minutes of play.

Elsewhere in the league six other teams also battled for a Frozen Four berth on Saturday. Boston College beat Northeastern 5-1 and Clarkson shutout Qunnipiac 1-0 before Minnesota's match. An hour after the Gophers secured their spot Wisconsin's game against Mercyhurst began and the Badgers eventually beat them 6-0. On March 18th Clarkson and Boston College play each other and then there's a final season rematch between Wisconsin and Minnesota for the semifinals.