The Golden Gopher women's hockey team has advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four championship game with a 3-1 victory over Cornell in the tournament semifinal Friday, March 16 at Duluth's AMSOIL Arena. Amanda Kessel led the Gophers with three points on a goal and two assists in the game. Megan Bozek had the game-winning goal, which came in the first period.
Minnesota was dominant in the first period, logging 21 shots on goal and two goals while Cornell managed just five shots on goal. Penalties factored into the first period as the Gophers took just one penalty, while Cornell four, which resulted in two power play goals for the Gophers.
Cornell's goalie, Amanda Mazzotta, made some incredible saves early in the game to keep her team in it, but the Gophers eventually found the back of the net. Seventeen minutes into the game, Amanda Kessel put Minnesota on the scoreboard with a power play goal, assisted by Sarah Erickson and Anne Schleper. Just 20 seconds after Kessel's goal, Cornell took another penalty and gave the Gophers another power play opportunity, which they took advantage of. Megan Bozek gave the Gophers a 2-0 lead with a power play goal 18 minutes and 29 seconds into the game. Jen Schoullis and Kessel had assists on the goal. On Bozek's goal, the puck was deflected off the skate of Cornell player Alyssa Gagliardi and found its way past Mazzotta.
The second period had a much different feel as the Big Red came back from intermission showing more offensive pressure. Cornell got on the board with a goal 11 minutes, 40 seconds into the period, getting a power play goal from Alyssa Gagliardi. Jillian Saulnier had an assist on the goal, which cut Minnesota's lead to 2-1. The score would remain the same through the period. After being severely outshot in the first period, Cornell came back to lead in shots 13-9 in the second period. Cornell also managed to stay out of the penalty box in the second period.
The Gophers came back to life in the third period, allowing just three shots on goal and staying out of the penalty box. The Gophers recorded 11 shots in the final period. Cornell took two penalties in the latter half of the period, giving the Gophers nearly four consecutive minutes on the power play. Minnesota did not score with the advantage, but was able to wear down Cornell's defense. Cornell pulled Mazzotta out of the net in favor of an extra skater with just under a minute remaining in the game, and Emily West was able to score an empty net goal on a breakaway. The goal came with just 34 seconds left in the game. Kessel and Rachel Ramsey had assists on the goal.
Minnesota goalie Noora Raty saved 21 shots in the game, and has a record of 32-5-2 on the season after starting in all but one game during the 2011-12 campaign.
The Gophers have advanced to the NCAA championship game for the first time since 2006, and are looking for their first national title since 2005.
In the earlier semifinal game, top-seed Wisconsin defeated BostonCollege 6-2. With Wisconsin and Minnesota playing in the title game, the WCHA's national championship streak will remain intact. Only three teams have won NCAA women's hockey championships in the 12-year history of the tournament, all coming from the WCHA conference in Minnesota, MinnesotaDuluth, and Wisconsin.
Sunday's championship game will be held at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth, Minn., at 3 p.m.