The 2019 WCHA Final Face Off semifinals closed with a match between Wisconsin and Ohio State at Ridder Arena Saturday evening. The Badgers were on the attack from the moment the puck dropped, but the Buckeyes were ready for them and regularly forced them to have to clear their own zone. Still, Wisconsin quickly outpaced them on both shots and zone times despite goaltender Andrea Braendli shutting down whatever the team in front of her was unable to halt. Caitlin Schneider had a great chance on Braendli after coming up the left side. Then Sophie Shirley was denied on the doorstep after weaving her way though center of OCU’s zone.
At 8:48 Jscyn reeves took a hooking minor. On the power play a shot from the left circle hit Braendli, which caused a scramble in the crease until Britta Curl knocked the puck into the back of the net at 10:18. Mekenzie Steffen and Maddie Rolfes had the assists. The Badgers continued pressing after the goal, however the second half of the period was when OSU’s offense finally kicked into action. They were buzzing hard enough that Kristen Campbell’s net was knocked on top of her and shortly after play resumed she had to leap all over the place to stop the puck. Near the end of the period Jincy Dunne made a right point shot on goal, which Campbell blocked. Lauren Boyle caught the rebound and fed it to Tatum Skaggs for a tying goal at 18:51.
Second period started with the Buckeyes blocking a plethora of shots as Wisconsin tried to blast their way into a lead. This was only intensified when Liz Schepers went to the box for boarding Schneider on front of the OSU bench at 3:49. The Badgers spent the power play puck cycling and, according to the box score, took a surprisingly large number of shots as they definitely were focused on making high quality ones—instead of simply throwing the puck on goal as fast and as often as possible. Curl made a high slot shot that Braendli snatched out of thin air. A few minutes later Lauren Boyle made a blue line shot which deflected off Charly Dahlquist to slip between Campbell’s shoulder and the post at 11:28. Emma Maltais had the second assist.
Annie Pankowski made a wrap around attempt. Then there was some rink racing, which was interrupted by Rolfes interfering with Skaggs at 15:55. Wisconsin killed the penalty and the moment she was out of the box Rolfes caught the puck, carried it up the left side, and put a shot on goal before attempting to knock home her own rebound. Instead it was Shirley who tied the game at when she slipped the puck in on an open backdoor after Rolfes’ initial shot from the left side got denied. Sam Cogan had the second assist on this goal, which came at 19:14.
Third period was delayed by about ten minutes due to a zamboni breaking down on the ice, but the extended intermission didn’t faze Wisconsin. The Badgers were relentless in the initial four minutes as they piled shots on Ohio State. After that the Buckeyes had some dangerous chances, including one where the puck went into Campbell’s crease from the side and she had to knock it out front. Pankowski skater along the right side of the slot Sophie Jaques latched onto her and ultimately hampered the shot enough that Braendli had an easy save, which earned Jaques a holding minor at 8:08. Steffen’s center blue line shot hit the crossbar in an otherwise uneventful power play.
There was a bit of a lull in the game as play went from end to end. Wisconsin continued to pile up shots, and ultimately outshot OSU 42-15 by the end of the game, while Ohio’s defense looked tougher than their mascot. It was almost a shock when a misplay on Ohio’s part allowed Abby Roque to get the puck behind Braendli’s net and then pass to Pankowski in the slot, who immediately scored via the 5-hole at 15:30. Suddenly it was a different game and the Badgers were now prioritizing defense. At 18:48 Ohio pulled Braendli for the extra attacker. With 57.7 seconds left on the clock the Buckeyes used their timeout to set up for a final all out assault on goal. However, Wisconsin weathered the final minute to emerge with a 3-2 victory. This also allows the Badgers to go on to face the Gophers for the WCHA tournament championship and determine who holds the first seed for the NCAA tournament on Sunday.