The Minnesota Gophers used their first power play of the game to their advantage with Abbey Murphy knocking in what would be the game winning goal 3:43 into the third period to put the Gophers ahead 3-2. They would add an empty net goal and defeat the Wisconsin Badgers 4-2 to advance to Saturday afternoon’s WCHA Final Face-off Championships game against Ohio State who knocked off UMD 2-1 earlier in the day. It was the Gophers first win over the Badgers this season after going 0-2-2 in the regular season and it could not have come at a better time.
The Gophers started out with a lot of pressure early and often in the Badger defensive zone. But Cami Kronish was up to the task in the Badger net. She stuffed Abigail Boreen on a huge two on one with Taylor Heise just minutes into the game. Less than an minute and a half later the Gophers broke through when Peyton Hemp intercepted a Wisconsin clearing attempt and found Madison Kaiser in between the circles. She ripped a wrister over Kronish’s glove shoulder and put Minnesota ahead 1-0.
A BIG time goal by the freshman! pic.twitter.com/bG57cCINH5— Minnesota Women's Hockey (@GopherWHockey) March 3, 2023
Both teams would have additional looks in the period, but both goaltenders stood tall. On the lone power play of the period Wisconsin had a great opportunity in front but Gopher goalie Skyler Vetter made an amazing sliding save on Wisconsin’s Sophie Shirley to keep it 1-0. Minnesota put a bit of additional pressure late in the period but could not get a shot past Kronish and the first ended with Minnesota up 1-0. The Gophers outshoot the Badgers 12-7 in the opening period.
Wisconsin came out strong early in the second as would be expected and had a couple near chances before they would tie the game at one on a brutal Gopher mistake. Gopher defender Liz Norton thought she was alone behind her own net and played a drop pass to what she thought was a teammate. It wasn’t. It was Wisconsin’s Casey O’Brien who put the puck past Vetter to tie the game just 1:54 into the second period.
Wisconsin controlled the play in the Gopher end for the next few minutes as Minnesota struggled to clear their own zone. Finally they got the puck out and got their top line on the ice and took advantage. Both Catie Skaja and Heise had shots but the Bagders could not clear the rebound before Madeline Wethington crashed the net from her blue line position and put the puck past Kronish to make it 2-1.
Come for the goal— Minnesota Women's Hockey (@GopherWHockey) March 3, 2023
STAY for the celly pic.twitter.com/UBlvEI8KAL
Wisconsin again would take control and have some great looks in the middle of the period. Vetter made a great save and got some help as Wethington saved a goal by blocking a Badger shot with a wide open net. But the Badgers would finally break through again after a slashing call on Minnesota’s Abbey Murphy. Nicola LaMantia wristed a shot from the point past Vetter on the power play and tied the game at two with 7:25 left in the period.
Both teams would have looks for the rest of the period but could not convert. The Badgers earned their third power play of the night with 2:03 left in the period but never got any great chances and Minnesota killed it off and ended the period with some momentum and the game knotted at two.
Both teams had early chances in the third, but the momentum seemed to change when the Gophers got their first power play of the game when Heise was tripped by Britta Curl for Wisconsin. The Gophers would cash in as Zumwinkle ripped a shot from the point that was saved, and then Skaja hit the pipe on her rebound attempt, but Abbey Murphy was right there in front to put the trash where it belong in the back of the net with 16:17 left in the third.
MURPHY MAGIC PT. 27 pic.twitter.com/JjEtKK18ha— Minnesota Women's Hockey (@GopherWHockey) March 4, 2023
The Badgers attempted to answer back less than two minutes later, but Vetter shut the door on a breakaway attempt by O’Brien.
Stone cold Skylar! pic.twitter.com/l2iFvjIGY5— Minnesota Women's Hockey (@GopherWHockey) March 4, 2023
Both teams pressured the other the rest of the period. Minnesota got a second power play of the game with about 10 minutes left in the third period and had some good looks, but could not capitalize. With about four Minutes left Minnesota had a chance to ice the game on a nice passing play but Boreen could not handle the puck with a wide open net and fanned on it keeping the game 3-2.
Wisconsin would pull Kronish with about 2:30 left in the game but could not maintain possession in the zone and Heise found Skaja who skated to mid-ice and shot the puck into the empty net with 1:19 to play putting the Gophers up 4-2. Wisconsin pulled Kronish again with a minute left and spend the final 20 seconds of the game on a 6x4 power play but could not get a shot past Vetter as Minnesota would skate out the win.
Vetter would make 23 saves in the win for the Gophers. Murphy would be the #1 star with a goal and an assist, Skaja the #2 star with a goal and a pair of assists, and Hesie the #3 star with a pair of assists.
Minnesota now advances to face the Buckeyes for the fifth time this season. Minnesota has had more success this year than many of the past few against OSU going 2-1-1 this season. In their most recent series in Minneapolis to start February the Gophers picked up a 4-2 win on Friday before dropping a 5-1 game on Saturday. It’s a rematch of last season’s WCHA Championship game where the Gophers held a 2-0 lead after two periods and led 2-1 late in the third until Sophie Jacques took over. She scored the game tying goal with 9:34 left in the third, and then would add the game winner in OT just 22 seconds into the extra period to give the Buckeyes the title.
The win also appears to lock down a home NCAA Quarterfinal game for Minnesota. The Gophers moved up to #2 in the Pairwise rankings with their win and Yale’s double OT loss to Clarkson in the ECAC Tournament. Even with a loss to Ohio State on Saturday it appears the Gophers can fall no lower than #3 in the rankings meaning a home quarterfinal next Saturday against the winner of the first round game to take place Thursday night at Ridder
Saturday’s game against Ohio State will face off at 2 PM and will air liv on Fox9+ and stream on BTN+.