The Minnesota Gophers women’s hockey team revenge tour keeps rolling on. The Gophers used stellar defensive and goaltending play from sophomore netminder Skyler Vetter and a trio of goals from Madeline Wethington, Abbey Murphy and Catie Skaja to earn the Gophers first trip back to the Frozen Four since 2019. The Gophers will see a very familar foe in their Frozen Four semifinal—the Wisconsin Badgers who upset #3 seed Colgate 4-2 to advance to Duluth next weekend.
The first period was a fairly conservative period with both teams not wanting to give the other a huge advantage early in the game. UMD turned a couple of Minnesota turnovers in their defensive zone into quality chances but Vetter made some big saves. The Gophers got one good look on UMD goalie Emma Soderberg as well but she was calm and in control and flawless in the opening stanza. After one period the score remained scoreless.
Minnesota seemed to play more of their style of game in the second period. Minnesota controlled the play and the offensive zone time. Minnesota would finally break through when Madeline Wethington picked up a puck in her own zone, skated down the left side of the ice and wristed a shot that was deflected by a UMD defender’s stick and fluttered over Soderberg’s shoulder to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead. UMD challenged the goal for offsides but the replay showed that Gopher freshman Madison Kaiser’s skate was on the blue line and it was called a good goal.
DEADLOCK. BROKEN.— Minnesota Women's Hockey (@GopherWHockey) March 11, 2023
: B1G+ pic.twitter.com/Mq5ZkqorV8
Minnesota had a few more good looks at Soderberg in the period but she stood tall and Minnesota took a 1-0 lead into the third period.
It would take just over 3 minutes into the third period until the hottest Gopher player struck yet again. Abbey Murphy took the puck at center ice and skated into the Bulldog zone. She stickhandled through UMD defender Taylor Stewart’s legs and then rifled a shot in the absolute upper corner of the goal past Soderberg to put Minnesota ahead 2-0 with 16:38 left in regulation. Murphy now has goals in nine straight games for the Gophers.
HIGHLIGHT REEL IN THE TOURNEY— Minnesota Women's Hockey (@GopherWHockey) March 11, 2023
9-game goal streak for @Abbey18Murphy!@SportsCenter | #SCTop10 pic.twitter.com/TeFCP0nrh9
UMD challenged the goal for the second time in the game as the net started to come off right as the puck went into the goal, but the referees upheld the goal once again. The Bulldogs had to take a two minute delay of game penalty since they had already lost their lone challenge, but they would kill off the penalty with ease.
UMD had a few looks but nothing too significant, and the Gophers would put the final nail in the Bulldogs season with 9:42 left in the game when Wethington found a streaking Catie Skaja all alone for a breakaway. She put the puck past Soderberg for a 3-0 Minnesota lead. Skaja now has 11 goals in her career against UMD.
SNIPE CITY— Minnesota Women's Hockey (@GopherWHockey) March 11, 2023
Skaja's 11th career goal against UMD adds some BIG TIME insurance! pic.twitter.com/8X619RiG5b
The Bulldogs started to play with urgency late in the period and put several good looks on Vetter, but she stopped them all. Soderberg was pulled with just over four minutes left in the game but UMD could not crack the Gopher defense and Minnesota could not put in an empty net goal. As the final horn sounded the Gophers mobbed Vetter who’s 29 save shutout helped lead the Gophers back to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2019.
In Duluth the Gophers will face a very familiar foe in Wisconsin. it will be the sixth meeting between the two schools this season and the seventh time in the last eleven NCAA Tournaments that the two rivals will meet.
Did Minnesota and Wisconsin play one another in the NCAA Women's Hockey Tournament?— Nate Wells (@gopherstate) March 11, 2023
2013: No (UW missed)
2017: No (Clarkson beat both in FF)
2021: No (MN missed)
2022: No (Both lost in QF)
An all-WCHA National Semifinal guarantees that a WCHA team will play for a NCAA title once again in 2023. A team from the conference has played in every single NCAA Championship game since the tournament began in 2021 with one exception—2018 when Clarkson and Colgate faced off ironically at Ridder Arena. Either Minnesota or Wisconsin will play for their NCAA leading 7th title, with Minnesota adding one ACHA Championship in 2000 to bring their complete total to 7 National Championships won.
The other Frozen Four semifinal will pit #5 seed Northeastern who defeated Yale 4-2 to advance against the winner of #1 Ohio State and #8 Quinnipiac. That game saw Quinnipiac leading the defending NCAA Champ Buckeyes 1-0 early in the 2nd period at the time of this post.
We will have much more coverage of the Gophers return back to the Frozen Four all this week here on TDG.