Saturday the Gophers headed up to Duluth and the AMSOIL Arena to play the Bulldogs in the NCAA quarterfinals. Kelly Pannek got a chance right away, but her shot didn’t actually reach goaltender Maddie Rooney. For the first half of the period shots reached either goaltender—Minnesota had managed three and Duluth only one—as the teams traveled back and forth across the ice. Then Sidney Peters had to make a great leg swipe save to keep the game scoreless and the Gophers started boxing Duluth into their zone.
During one of these intervals Ashleigh Brykaliuk tripped a Gopher and took a penalty at 16:45. Minnesota started puck cycling and in response the Bulldogs closed in around their net, mimicking Bemidji’s brick wall strategy against the Gophers, and killed the penalty. The game had some physicality to it, Katherine McGovern was sent flying into Peters’s crease without a call and then a bunch of skaters hit the ice surrounding Rooney. At the end of the period the game was still scoreless with shots 11-4 Minnesota.
The end-to-end puck chase continued second period. Minnesota had a flurry of activity around Rooney after the puck ended up loose in her crease, but she made the save while lying on her back before the Gophers could score. Demi Crossman took an interference penalty, but the Bulldogs killed it without any difficulty using the same methods as before. Lara Stalder came down the left side, but couldn’t get a shot off despite the fact neither side was moving particularly fast. Dani Cameranesi made a shot from the left circle and immediately after there was a mess in Duluth’s crease as everyone scrambled for the puck. The Gophers were finally getting more active and started, not only putting shots on goal as they puck chased, but also regularly boxing the Bulldogs in for longer attacks. One Gopher even attempted a wraparound.
Stalder continued making her presence felt by Minnesota’s defenses. Then Katerina Mrazova had a breakaway down the center and with Peters butterflied to protect as much of the net as she could, the upper half was open, but Mrazova’s high shot hit the crossbar. All of Duluth’s shots seemed to go high during the game. Sophie Skarzynski crashed into a Bulldog and took them both down, which sent her to the box for checking at 15:54. Minnesota kept Duluth from putting many shots on goal with physical play and even kept them out of their zone for the latter half of the penalty. Then Brykaliuk flew down the left side and her shot rang off the crossbar so hard it soared back toward the blue line and play raced back to the other end. Catherine Daoust knocked Skarzynski down in Rooney’s crease then fell on top of her without call. As the period came to a close Caitlin Reilly got a good shot off from the left circle, but it went straight into the bulldog on Rooney’s chest. Second period ended just as scoreless as the first, shots 22-14 Minnesota.
Sarah Potomak had a nice shot to start third period, but like Pannek’s in first period it didn’t reach Rooney. The Bulldogs focused on pushing the Gophers out of their zone, but Gophers kept slipping through. Mrazova crashed into a Gopher as the puck flew through the Minnesota crease. Then the Gophers were back on the attack and puck cycling until Pannek made a shot from the right circle and Patti Marshall tipped it in from the right side at 7:54. Potomak had the second assist. Right after the Gophers scored, Peters had to make a lunging glove save on a Sidney Morin shot then hit the ice.
A lot of Bulldogs hit the ice without any calls, probably because the Gophers didn’t down them with any hard hits. Duluth had another near chance when they sent the puck flying laterally through Peters’s crease, but couldn’t get anyone in the crease to capitalize on it. Cara Piazza’s shot from the slot went wide. Then during another Bulldog flurry someone crashed into Peters taking her down and she had to scramble back to her skates as play continued around the back of her net. Megan Wolfe suddenly got the puck at Duluth’s blue line and put it on goal at the crease, but Rooney blocked the shot. Duluth pulled Rooney at 19:28 for a final hurrah with a lot of shoving from both sides, but they couldn’t break Peters’s shutout. The Gophers won, beating the Bulldogs 1-0, after another tightly contested game. The Minnesota Women’s hockey team is headed to St. Charles, Missouri, for the Frozen Four.
Elsewhere around the NCAA three other teams played their way into the Frozen Four. First ranked Wisconsin slaughtered eighth seed Robert Morris, making their first NCAA tournament appearance, in a 7-0 shutout. Likewise Boston College had a similarly lopsided victory, 6-0, over St. Lawrence. Finally, Clarkson bested Cornell 3-1 thanks to a couple of goals late in the third period. This means that Wisconsin takes on Boston College and Minnesota faces their old foe Clarkson for the Frozen Four semifinals. Both games will be streamed live on ncaa.com, starting at 5pm on Friday, March 17th. Winners play in the championship game at 2pm on Sunday, March 19th and the Big Ten Network will broadcast the game live.