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Badgers Take 2019 WCHA Tournament Title from Gophers

Wisconsin beat Minnesota 3-1, thereby winning the 2019 WCHA Final Face Off Tournament and taking the 1st seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The 2019 WCHA Final Face Off Championship game showcased some of the best college hockey in the country and Minnesota butted heads with Wisconsin yet again for a title.
Cat Lenander

Sunday afternoon Minnesota hosted Wisconsin at Ridder Arena for the 2019 WCHA Final Face Off championship. Once the game began the teams spent the first several minutes feeling each other out with a little back and forth. This reconfirmed what they already knew—their opponents were fast, talented, disciplined, and any mistake could turn into a goal. As the period progressed the Badgers outshot the Gophers and maintained more zone control. During one of their offensive blitzes Sophia Shaver fed the puck to Caitlin Schneider in the slot and Schneider lobbed it into the top of the net at 8:11. Presley Norby had the second assist.

The goal was quickly followed up with an Annie Pankowski slot shot and then Britta Curl tried to bang home the rebound on the doorstep, but Sidney Scobee stopped both attempts in their tracks. Norby’s right circle shot was equally fruitless. Emily Brown made a nice left point shot on Kristen Campbell, which she deflected. Shaver took an interference penalty at 13:12. The Badgers displayed an aggressive penalty kill and Abby Roque even made an excellent shorthanded attempt, which was foiled when Grace Zumwinkle hooked her. This landed Zumwinkle in the box at 15:09. She was released two minutes later after Taylor Heise had a fantastic chance for a shorthanded goal from the left circle.

Sarah Potomak (#26) and Annie Pankowski (#19) were major players for their respective teams throughout the game.
Cat Lenander

Second period started with Wisconsin creating a lot of chances. At 2:41 Curl’s shot from the dot of the left circle found the back of the net. Roque had the lone assist. Sarah Potomak swooped around and round Wisconsin’s zone looking for an opening, but couldn’t line up a shot. Minnesota got some nice offense going after that, which included Olivia Knowles making a right point shot into Campbell. Later when the Badgers were buzzing they got Scobee on her back, but she still managed to keep the puck out. Sarah Potomak made a snap shot the moment she got the puck, but it wasn’t fast enough to beat Campbell.

Amy Potomak drew a delayed interference penalty on Maddie Rolfes, which kicked in at 8:53. During the power play the Gophers cycled the puck, which eventually led to Brown at the blue line passing to Zumwinkle in the left circle for a blast into the top of the net at 9:24. Nicole Schammel had the second assist. Cutting the lead in half invigorated Minnesota and they went on frenzy, which included a Heise shot deflecting off Campbell’s mask. Several minutes later Sophie Shirley nearly tipped the puck in on Scobee’s backdoor, but hit the post instead. Played turned into rink racing for the rest of the period, though Schneider’s flyby attempt just before the buzzer had looked pretty dangerous.

Grace Zumwinkle (#12) had the only Minnesota goal in the 2019 WCHA Final Face Off Championship game.
Cat Lenander

Wisconsin continued to maintain their lead third period, though Minnesota did their best to alter the outcome. Amy Potomak shot into Campbell, but she didn’t hang onto it, which allowed the Gopher a chance with her own rebound. Then Heise made a shot on a wide open net, which didn’t cross the goal line due to a fantastic toe save on Campbell’s part. The teams traded flurries that included a lot of uncalled physical play. That is, until MeKenzie Steffen took a holding penalty at 11:31, which apparently was initially reviewed for checking from behind. Wisconsin killed the penalty. Play became furious bursts of action as tension mounted during the Gophers’ quest for a tiebreaker, which only intensified when Scobee was pulled at 18:17. Pankowski’s unassisted empty net goal at 18:55 was like a balloon being deflated.

There was no coming back from that and Wisconsin won 3-1 after outshooting Minnesota 25-21. Not only had the Badgers taken the WCHA tournament cup, they also took the 1st seed for the NCAA tournament in the process. Luckily for Minnesota, they still have the 2nd seed locked, which means they will be hosting Princeton for the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday, March 16th at 4pm. Wisconsin hosts Syracuse on the same day.