DURHAM, N.H. — The third time’s the charm for Minnesota as the Gophers took down rival Wisconsin 3-2 in overtime Friday night in the second women’s national semifinal.
It’s the third straight year the Gophers have eliminated Wisconsin from the tournament in the semifinal round.
In six games this season, each team has won three times and three of the contests went into overtime.
Earlier this season, Wisconsin ended an 18-game winless streak against Minnesota, but the Gophers still found a way to have the upper hand when the season was on the line.
“It was not an easy game and we knew it wouldn’t be,” said Minnesota coach Brad Frost. “It was just an epic Minnesota-Wisconsin battle. I’m not surprised that it went into overtime or that it was as even as it was.”
National Rookie of the Year Sarah Potomak scored the game winner 15 minutes into the overtime period when she picked Mellissa Channell’s pocket and got in on Wisconsin goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens’ right side.
Potomak admitted she doesn’t remember much about the play, but Frost praised Potomak for keeping her feet moving and shooting right away.
“We knew that we were going to have to shoot the puck quickly and try to catch Ann-Renée off balance a little bit and as [Potomak] said, I think we surprised her a little bit,” said Frost.
Minnesota struck early to open the scoring with just more than two minutes gone in the first period. Lee Stecklein had the puck along the back boards and was heading behind the net, but saw Taylor Williamson alone in the slot. Stecklein timed a perfect pass before she went behind the goal, placing it on the tape for Williamson to one-time and give Minnesota the lead.
Wisconsin tied the score midway through the first when Sophia Shaver got a gift as Minnesota’s Sydney Baldwin turned it over with a wobbly pass in front of the goal. From there, it was an easy dump into the net for Shaver to even the game for the Badgers.
Emily Clark gave the Badgers the lead just before the second period break, slotting home a rebound on the back post. Sam Cogan did most of the work, winning a puck behind the net and bringing it around the post to back-hand a shot on goal. Amanda Leveille deflected it right to Clark and she buried it.
Despite trailing heading into the final frame, Minnesota’s Amanda Kessel said the mood in the Gophers locker room was positive.
“We were really confident,” said Kessel. “At 1-1, we were going to need to score another one to win anyway. We knew that we had to score some goals.”
The Wisconsin lead didn’t last long as Kessel scored just 27 seconds into the third period. Stecklein fed her in the slot and there was no one between her and Desbiens and she sniped a shot just inside the post to make it a 2-2 game.
“We knew this was going to be a tough game,” Potomak said. “We just never gave up on each other. We believed in each other. I think that’s just the best feeling. We came out together as a team and won. We were all super-excited.”
The Gophers will take Friday to celebrate before starting to prepare for Boston College on Saturday. Frost isn’t worried about his team losing focus or looking too far ahead.
“I know this team will be ready to go; we’ve got some great experience in our locker room,” he said.
Despite the loss, Wisconsin ends its season having set a new NCAA record by giving up just 29 goals (14 to Minnesota) in 40 games.
Desbiens ends her junior campaign in the history books as well. The Patty Kazmaier top-three finalist set three new NCAA single-season records: 21 shutouts, 0.76 GAA and .960 save percentage.