Three years in a row, and it's still just as sweet. Minnesota got a goal by NCAA Freshman of the Year Sarah Potomak after a Wisconsin turnover in their own zone to defeat the Badgers 3-2 in overtime and advance to their fifth straight NCAA Championship Game. It was the third consecutive season that Minnesota defeated Wisconsin in the NCAA Frozen Four Semi-finals ad ended the Badgers' season. The Gophers will take on undefeated 40-0 Boston College in the title game at 1:00 Sunday.
Minnesota got on the board early in the first period when freshman Taylor Williamson took a nice feed from Lee Stecklin in front of the Badger net and put the puck past Ann-Renee Desbeins to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead. The Badgers would strike back at the 11:35 mark of the first when Sydney Baldwin turned the puck over in the Gopher zone. Badger freshman Sophia Shaver picked it up and rifled a shot past Amanda Leveille to knot the game at one. That's how the first period would end.
The second period was nearly scoreless, but the Badgers got what at the time appeared to be a huge momentum burst just as the period was almost over. Minnesota could not clear there zone, and Emily Clark put a rebound of a Sam Cogan shot past Leveille with 17.7 seconds left in the period to give the Badgers a 2-1 lead into the second intermission.
It would be a daunting task for Minnesota as Wisconsin was 34-0 this season when leading after two periods. However, the Gophers got a boost from their star. Amanda Kessel tied the game back at 2 just 27 seconds into the third period on a nice feed from Hannah Brandt. Both teams would have great chances in he rest of regulation, but Leveille and Desbiens made some huge saves down the stretch. Desbiens would finish with 38 saves, while Leveille would make 37.
The Gophers started overtime with a minute and a half of power-play time, and almost won the game when Dani Camaranesi ripped a blast off the crossbar behind Desbiens. After they could not convert Wisconsin had two power-play chances in the overtime that Minnesota was able to kill. With five minutes left in overtime, Potomak pressured a Badger defenseman on the forecheck and knocked the puck away. She put on a burst of speed, pushed past the defender, and slipped the puck through Desbiens' five-hole for the win!
The Gophers will play in the NCAA Championship game for the fifth consecutive season. Minnesota is 3-1 in the four previous games with the only loss coming to Clarkson in 2014. Minnesota almost got a rematch of that game Sunday as the Green Knights took a 2-0 lead on #1 seed and undefeated Boston College into the second period before BC would come back. They got the tying goal with just over three minutes left in the third period and then Hailey Skrupa scored just 53 seconds into overtime to keep the Eagles dreams of an undefeated season alive. Quite fittingly that to achieve that goal, they will now have to go through the only other team to complete a season undefeated in the Gophers. Minnesota does not want to share that record, and on Sunday they can do something about it.
We will have a full preview of the NCAA Championship game up tomorrow on The Daily Gopher. The end goal is not over, but the joy and high from ending the Badgers season once again is filtering through. When a sweet feeling it is.