An hour after Wisconsin’s 1-0 victory over Boston College Friday night, Minnesota took on Clarkson in the second Frozen Four semifinal game. The Gophers came out attacking, with Cara Piazza flying down the right side and shooting on Shea Tiley as Nicole Schammel charged the net. Sidney Peters then made several saves as a Golden Knight drove to her net and then there was a bit of puck chasing across the ice. Loren Gabel nearly crashed into Minnesota’s net and in the process knocked Peters off her skates, but she was back in position before play returned to her crease. Minnesota had a bit of a flurry around Clarkson’s zone. During a different play, Piazza collided with Cassidy Vinkle then went down hard and in pain. After being checked out Piazza was able to skate off on her own and continued to play.
Kelly Pannek made an attempt, but Tiley stopped her at the doorstep and then a Knight pushed Pannek away. Gophers caused a mess at the Clarkson crease then a little later Lee Stecklein shot into traffic from the right circle, but her shot was deflected. Josiane Pozzebon caught on Taylor Williamson’s stick and went down, which sent the Gopher to the box for hooking at 10:43. Dani Cameranesi had a breakaway down the left shot and got a shot off, but couldn’t score shorthanded. The Knights spent the rest of the power play in Minnesota’s zone and kept the pressure going after it expired. This allowed Genevieve Bannon to come in, shoot on the right side, and catch her rebound off Peters on the left side to score at 12:55. Savannah Harmon and Ella Shelton had the assists.
A few minutes later Shelton’s shot from the left point rang off the crossbar, nearly putting Clarkson up by two. Then Kate Schipper made a drop pass to Caitlin Reilly above the left circle and zipped ahead so that when Reilly passed from the dot, Schipper tipped it in on the right side at 17:54. Neither team found the back of the net again this period, so the teams went into the second, tied 1-1, with shots 14-7 Minnesota.
Second period was slightly delayed as officials squeegeed off the ice, as the zamboni had left water on the rink like it had in the previous game. There was some back and forth to start the period then a pileup along the Clarkson backboards. Shelton put another shot on goal from the left side, this time it was deflected away from the net by Peters’s blocker. Kelly Mariani attempted a wraparound. Then Bannon came in along the right side and shot, which Peters stopped and Stecklein kept her from making a second attempt. However, Gabel was able to get the puck and shoot, which resulted in a mess at the crease and an eventual cover-up by Peters. Pannek and Cameranesi made a few attempts to start a Gopher flurry that included Piazza’s point shot ringing off Tiley’s facemask.
Amanda Titus whipped down the right side, Peters deflected her wrister, which allowed Shelton a chance from the left and then the goaltender covered up. The Gophers did some puck cycling in Clarkson’s zone before Gabel carried it to Minnesota’s zone, passed to Cayley Mercer, and she carried it behind their net before handing it off to Bannon. Bannon then passed to Gabel in the slot and she scored at 11:21. The Gophers pulled off some prolonged puck control in Clarkson’s zone, which ended in Tiley covering it up after a Pannek shot from the right circle. Williamson and Sophie Skarzynski’s concerted efforts were also denied. As the period wound down Pannek made a lateral pass at Clarkson’s blue line to Sarah Potomak and she banged it home top shelf from between the circles at 19:00. Sydney Baldwin had the second assist. Thus, second period also ended in a tie, shots 25-18 for Minnesota.
Third period was also delay due to wet ice. Minnesota remained on the attack, buzzing around Clarkson’s zone and bringing it right back whenever the Knights carried it out. Reilly and Cameranesi were two of many who made some choice shots that Tiley blocked. Then Harmon carried the puck into Minnesota’s zone, shot last the Gopher mirroring her and Peters into to goal at 4:58. Rhyen McGill and Titus had the assists. Cameranesi tried to beat Tiley from close on the left side, but she hit her shoulder instead of netting. Then a Knight was off, up the right side, passed to a teammate on the left, and she shot into Peters as well. Clarkson iced the puck at 9:36 and immediately used their timeout to rest their skaters.
There was some more puck chasing then Minnesota started boxing Clarkson into their zone as they puck cycled and generally created chaos. Stecklein raced down the middle for a shot, her shot went wide. Then Lindsay Agnew shot from the left circle, it rebounded off Tiley to Skarzynski, also on the left side, and she tied the game for the third time at 14:57. Katie Robinson sent a Knight tumbling without a call. Then Shelton made a right point shot, which was blocked. Potomak came down the right side, but she couldn’t backhand the puck into goal from the crease. It was beginning to look like the game was going to overtime when Bannon made a shot from the left circle and McGill scored off the rebound from just right of the crease at 18:29. Stecklein shoved McGill to the ice right after the goal, but the Knights were too busy celebrating to care.
With 91 seconds left in the game Minnesota used their timeout to regroup and then pulled Peters with 55 seconds left on the clock, but they couldn’t tie a fourth time. The shots, 31-25, was in Minnesota’s favor, but Clarkson had the lead where it mattered, winning 4-3. The Golden Knights will move on and face Wisconsin in the National Championship game at 2pm, Sunday, March 19th. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.
With that, Minnesota’s streak of 5 national championship games has come to an end. It’s been a long hard season for the Gophers full of injuries (bad) and increased conference parity (good). They didn’t get quite as far as they wanted, but these ladies ought to hold their heads high. A record of 26-8-5 is nothing to belittle—most teams in the league would kill for such a season and it goes to show just how dominating this team has been in recent years that anyone would be disappointed—and as time goes on the memories from the season will become far more important than the record. The Gophers flew home after the Patty Kazmaier Award ceremony Saturday, which Wisconsin’s Ann-Reneé Desbiens won, instead of staying in Missouri for the championship game. Monday the team will be back to focusing on the student part of their student-athlete lives, but they’ll always be Minnesota’s heroes on the ice.