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Gopher Women Frozen Four Bound After Cracking Open Tigers Third Period

Minnesota and Princeton were neck and neck, even after an early third period goal until a couple of empty netters in the last 90 seconds earned the Gophers a 5-2 victory and a trip to the 2019 Frozen Four.

Tiger Annie MacDonald (front #12) being chased by Gophers Sarah Potomak (left #26), Kelly Pannek (center #19), and Amy Potomak (right #16).
Cat Lenander

As the overall #2 seed in the country Minnesota hosted Princeton for the 2019 NCAA Quarterfinals Saturday afternoon at Ridder Arena. As expected the Gophers went hard from the moment the puck dropped and forced the Tigers into their own zone for the majority of the first several minutes. Emily Oden’s slot shot during a flurry hit pipe instead of the back of the net. Princeton’s first shot on goal didn’t come until a minute later, but it was a big one as Sarah Fillier’s shot from the left circle slipped past Sydney Scobee at 5:26. This put a bit of bounce in the Tigers’ strides, but Minnesota didn’t wait long to get them back. While Stephanie Neatby made the initial save on Sarah Potomak’s shot, the puck was still resting against her leg pad. So when Neatby shifted position the puck slipped away and rolled across the goal line at 7:12. Amy Potomak and Kelly Potomak assisted on this tying goal.

Fillier had another great shot and this time Gracie Ostertag blocked it. Minnesota had several solid chances, which included three attempts by Oden on the doorstep. Play was briefly halted at 12:47 after a puck flew over the glass and hit a fan. Once it resumed Pannek nearly scored as she skated along the curve of the crease, but Neatby blocked her all the way through the shot. The Tigers had a short flurry. Pannek shot down the slot and Neatby lunged forward, blocking the shot, but knocked the puck onto Amy Potomak’s stick and she tipped it into a wide open net at 18:05. Minnesota remained on the attack for the rest of the period.

Minnesota had the initial jump second period with Grace Zumwinkle passing to Taylor Wente for a tip in that went just wide of goal. A couple minutes later Fillier scored from the right side at 2:43. Carly Bullock and Mariah Keopple assisted on this tying goal. Just after the goal Annie MacDonald and Karlie Lund both made shots that went wide as Princeton looked for an equalizer. The Gophers spent the rest of the first half setting up exciting plays, but couldn’t finish them with a shot on goal. Eventually Pannek came into Princeton’s zone on the right side and passed up to her teammate for a tip in goal at 8:29, however the play went under review and was waved off, leaving the game tied 2-2.

Gophers celebrating their first lead of the game, which was Amy Potomak’s goal.
Cat Lenander

The Gophers hammered away at Neatby. By the time second period ended shots were 26-15 in Minnesota’s favor, though far more either missed the net or got blocked by Princeton’s defense. Amy Potomak had a breakaway shot into the shield on the goaltender’s jersey. Then Alex Woken streaked up the right side and unexpectedly wrapped around the net to feed Taylor Williamson in the slot for another denied shot. Despite the Gopher prevalence, Princeton still managed a large number of dangerous looking shots. Near the end of the period Shannon Griffin shot from the right side and Scobee stopped the puck, but then moved like she thought she didn’t have it in glove. This actually caused it to fall to the ice and in an instant Griffin attacked again, causing a scramble that only ended when play was whistled down.

At 1:38 of third period Pannek took a hooking penalty. Nicole Schammel made a shorthanded attempt before Minnesota killed the penalty. A bad Gopher back pass behind the Minnesota net put Scobee on her back when Fillier nearly scored yet again. Taylor Heise rang the puck off the crossbar, which was followed up by Williamson shooting just wide of the net as the Gophers buzzed through Princeton’s zone. Several minutes later the Tigers were on a tear after a bad turnover—it seemed like there were a lot of those during this game on Minnesota’s part—and Scobee eventually had to sit on the puck for a whistle to get the exhausted skaters in front of her off the ice.

Sarah Potomak eventually snagged the puck and carried it up the right side before passing across ice to Pannek, who then made a fairly lateral shot that landed in goal at 11:47. As soon as play resumed Minnesota nearly allowed Princeton to score. A little later Bullock made a long shot into Scobee’s glove and she then had to make several more saves as the Tigers prowled around her. At 15:28 Princeton used their timeout. Oden made a shot on goal, which her line mate had to hop over to avoid blocking it, but it landed in Neatby’s chest. Princeton pulled Neatby at 18:10 for the extra skater and ten seconds later Minnesota used their timeout after icing the puck.

It looked like the Tigers would tie it up again until Sarah Potomak scored an unassisted empty net goal from between Minnesota’s circles at 18:54. That should have ended things, but Princeton pulled Neatby again at 19:35 as they chased after their chance at a Frozen Four appearance. All that bought them was a Schammel empty net goal, assisted by Williamson, at 19:46. Princeton’s chances were dead. Minnesota celebrated this by putting Emma May in goal for the final fourteen seconds of the game, though she didn’t face a single shot. Minnesota’s hard fought 5-2 victory over Princeton punched their ticket to the Frozen Four, where they face Cornell in the semifinals on March 22nd.