Three years ago Clarkson University stunned the University of Minnesota in Hamden, CT and sent a rumble through NCAA Women's Hockey by becoming the first and only eastern school to win the National Championship. Late on Friday night in St. Charles, MO, the Golden Knights defeated the Gophers again in Frozen Four competition, but this time there was no upset.
Firmly established as one of the premier programs in Division I, Clarkson, the No. 2 seed at the 2017 Frozen Four, overcame two-time defending National Champion Minnesota, 4-3, in semifinal action at Family Arena. The Green and Gold will now move on to the NCAA title game and, much like in 2014, will battle the consensus number one team in the country for the right to hoist the National Championship trophy.
The Knights, who own a 31-4-5 overall record, will take a 10-game winning streak into Sunday's championship game vs. the University of Wisconsin (33-2-4). Clarkson and the #1 seeded Badgers will face off at 3:00 p.m. EST at Family Arena in the 17th Annual NCAA Women's Ice Hockey Championship.
Wisconsin defeated Boston College 1-0 in the first semifinal game on Friday.
Sophomore Rhyen McGill (Whitby, ONT) came through with the game-winner on Friday with 1:31 remaining in regulation, knocking in a rebound off a shot by senior Cayley Mercer (Exeter, ONT).
"It was an exciting game like we thought it was going to be," said Clarkson coach Matt Desrosiers. "We knew they were going to press and everything. We knew it wasn't going to be an easy game. It definitely wasn't for us.
"I am really proud of the way the players kept pushing. We get a lead and they cut it down. We just kept coming."
Clarkson took the lead three times over Minnesota (26-8-5), but each time the Gophers battled back to tie the contest. The game looked headed to overtime before McGill scored her ninth goal of the season during a flurry in front. McGill also scored the game-winning goal in the 1-0 win over Cornell in the ECAC Hockey Tournament Championship game on March 5.
Said McGill on the game-winner, "I saw [Genevieve] Bannon make the great pass over to [Cayley] Mercer, and Merc is a great player so that shot was either going in or there was going to be a rebound close. I went to the net hard and tried to knock it in."
In an entertaining first period, both teams had several excellent scoring opportunities with the Gophers holding a 12-9 shot advantage after the opening 20 minutes.
Clarkson got on the scoreboard first with the Knights' second-leading scorer, senior Genevieve Bannon (Candiac, QUE) connecting for her 15th goal of the season. Bannon finished off assists from blueline partners, junior Savannah Harmon (Downers Grove, IL) and freshman Ella Shelton (Ingersol, ONT), knocking in her own rebound from the slot at 12:55.
With 2:06 remaining in the period, Minnesota tied it up as Kate Schipper competed a nice play from Caitlin Reilly, tipping in a pass at the top of the crease.
Sophomore Loren Gabel (Kitchener, ONT), the nation's leading scorer in postseason, put the Green and Gold back on top at 11:21 of the second. Gabel took a pass in the slot from Bannon and sent a shot just under the crossbar for her 22nd goal of the season and eighth tally in the last six games. Mercer also assisted.
Once again, however, Minnesota battled back and tied the score 2-2 with 59.7 seconds remaining in the middle frame on a goal by Sarah Potomak from a shot in the slot.
At 4:58 of the third, Harmon, named an All-American on Thursday, fired in a wrist shot from the right circle for her 10th goal of the season. McGill and sophomore Amanda Titus (Windsor, ONT) assisted.
But for the third time, the Gophers tied it up when Sophie Skarzynski slipped a rebound shot in at 15:57.
Minnesota held a 31-25 advantage in shots. Junior Shea Tiley (Owen Sound, ONT) posted 28 saves for her 78th career win.
Clarkson played a discipline game and did not commit any penalties. The Knights went 0-of-1 on the only power play of the game, midway through the first period.