Wisconsin women top Gophers for NCAA crown

By Nicole Haase for the St. Paul Pioneer Press

HAMDEN, Conn. – Wisconsin defeated Minnesota 2-0 in the Women’s Frozen Four title game Sunday, capturing its fifth NCAA women’s hockey championship.

The Badgers ended the Gophers’ season for the second consecutive year after winning 4-0 in the NCAA quarterfinals last season. Minnesota has played in nine NCAA championship games; this was its third loss.

With five NCAA titles, Wisconsin climbed into a tie with Minnesota Duluth for second-most all time. The Gophers have six. Wisconsin last won it all in 2011.

The Gophers struggled to get anything generated in front of the Badgers net. Wisconsin recorded 20 blocks, and goalie Kristen Campbell had 27 saves for her third straight shutout of the postseason.

“They were really strong defensively. We were trying to get a lot of shots and we were having a hard time finding those second chances. It’s hard getting really good lucks against that team and they take care in front of the net,” said Minnesota senior Kelly Pannek.

Wisconsin’s first goal came in the first period off a great play by Minnetonka native and 2016 Minnesota Ms. Hockey Presley Norby, who scrapped in the corner and won the puck before feeding Wayzata native Sophia Shaver, who beat Gophers goalie Alex Gulstene.

The Badgers were particularly dangerous this season when scoring first, going 30-1-1 in those situations. In every Minnesota-Wisconsin game this season, the team that scored first was victorious.

In the second period, Minnesota looked to be picking up momentum thanks to two Wisconsin penalties, but that was effectively killed when Badgers senior captain Annie Pankowski extended the lead with a short-handed goal to make it 2-0 Wisconsin.

“That was a high-level play by Pankowski,” Gophers coach Brad Frost said. “Sometimes you’ve got to tip your cap to a great player. That one hurt. That was a huge turning point. We were generating some things on the power play, and then a big-time play there.”

The goal came after a Minnesota turnover, and Pankowski beat a trio of Gophers before flipping a backhand over Gulstene for her 28th goal of the season.

Wisconsin senior Maddie Rolfes said the theme of the day for the Badgers was
“whatever it takes.” They blocked shots, lifted sticks, deflected passes, broke up plays and kept Minnesota from finding a rhythm in the offensive zone. The Badgers were also successful in limiting pucks to the net and kept the Gophers from having second- and third-chance opportunities.

“It really helped to know their game and to know what kind of style they play and to adjust to that, and we went out with the utmost confidence,” said Rolfes.

Wisconsin’s Kristen Campbell turned away all 27 Minnesota shots and earned the Frozen Four’s most valuable player award. Minnesota’s Gulstene stopped 30 of 32 shots.

Minnesota (32-6-1) was 0 for 2 on the power play, while Wisconsin (35-4-2) failed to score in their only power play attempt.


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