ST. CHARLES, Mo. — Clarkson ended Minnesota’s bid to win three consecutive women’s national championships, defeating the Golden Gophers 4-3 Friday night to advance to the national championship game against Wisconsin.
“We knew this wasn’t going to be an easy game, and it definitely wasn’t for us,” Clarkson coach Matt Desrosiers said. “I’m really proud of the way the players kept pushing.”
In the early going, the Golden Gophers were firing everything on net, tallying 14 shots in the first 20 minutes. Cara Piazza and Kelly Pannek led Minnesota with three shots apiece, forcing Clarkson goaltender Shea Tilley to remain engaged throughout.
Although Minnesota came out firing on all cylinders in the first period, momentum seemed to shift after the Taylor Williamson of the Golden Gophers took an ill-advised hooking call with just over nine minutes left in the period.
Although Clarkson didn’t score on the ensuing power play, the team was set up in the offensive zone when senior forward Genevieve Bannon collected her own rebound and connected on the shot, putting Clarkson up 1-0 with seven minutes remaining in the opening period.
The shot was one of Bannon’s team-high four in the opening period. In fact, she registered over half of Clarkson’s shots in the period, as Minnesota goalie Sidney Peters faced just seven shots in the first 20 minutes.
Minnesota quickly regained the momentum it had lost, scoring almost exactly five minutes later to even the score at 1-1.
Senior Kate Schipper collected a pass from Caitlin Reilly just a few feet from the net and did not miss, picking up her 13th goal of the season.
The score remained tied into the second period, as both teams came up empty on multiple scoring chances in a game that was being primarily played in the offensive zones of the ice.
With less than nine minutes remaining in the second period, Clarkson once again jumped ahead as sophomore Loren Gabel’s outstanding postseason play continued. She followed up her hat trick in the quarterfinals with a goal here in the semifinals.
The goal came after sustained pressure in the offensive zone. Bannon picked up an assist on Gabel’s goal, giving her two points in the contest.
As was the case in the first period, Minnesota responded, picking up the game-tying goal with just one minute remaining in the second period as sophomore Sarah Potomak buried the shot with assists from Kelly Pannek and Sydney Baldwin.
However, Clarkson remained calm after giving up the lead, and were rewarded five minutes into the third period.
Junior Savannah Harmon picked up the puck in the neutral zone, found her way through multiple Minnesota players to get into shooting position and fired a wicked wrister into the back of the net, putting her team back on top 3-2.
“We just kept coming,” Desrosiers said.
Though it looked as if Clarkson would be able to prevent Minnesota from once again responding, those hopes were put to rest with five minutes left in the game.
The Golden Gophers had been putting the pressure on Clarkson since they scored the go-ahead goal, but had been unable to capitalize.
Sophie Skarzynski changed that when she took a pass from Lindsay Agnew and buried it into the back of the net, sending the Minnesota bench into an uproar and once again tying the score at 3-3.
As the minutes continued to wind down, it appeared that the game was destined for overtime.
However, Clarkson had other ideas.
With just 90 seconds left in the game, sophomore Rhyen McGill was in the right place at the right time for Clarkson, finding a loose rebound right in front of the net and burying it in the back of the net, putting her team ahead for good.
“I thought we drove hard to the net the entire game,” McGill said.
After a last-minute scramble proved unsuccessful for Minnesota, the Golden Knights emerged victorious.
Desrosiers said that he is proud of the way his team continued to push after Minnesota tied the score time after time.
“It’s a sign of a good team that we didn’t fold under the pressure even though they scored to tie the game a couple times,” Desrosiers said.
Bannon, who opened the scoring for Clarkson, said that their win was a product of remaining even-keeled and not allowing the score to dictate how the team played.
“We stuck to our system and just kept working the entire game,” Bannon said.
Clarkson will now look ahead to the championship game where they will be attempting to win their first championship in three years against Wisconsin. That game is set to begin from the Family Arena at 2 p.m. CDT on Sunday.