Gophers Fall in National Semifinal
March 17, 2017

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ST. CHARLES, Mo. -- Despite battling back to tie the game three times, the No. 5 Golden Gopher women's hockey team fell to No. 2 Clarkson by a score of 4-3 in the NCAA Women's Frozen Four semifinal round at the Family Arena Friday night.

Minnesota (26-8-5) scored once in each period, responding each time Clarkson took the lead, but the Golden Knights scored to make it 4-3 with just 1:31 remaining and the Gophers could not find the fourth equalizer.

"I'm really proud of our team," head coach Brad Frost said. "It was another really great hockey game, not the outcome we wanted, certainly, but some good back-and-forth action all night. Congratulations to Clarkson, and best of luck to them and Wisconsin on Sunday.

"It hurts. Our team came a long way this year, and we were hoping for a better result but didn't get it. We were chasing a lot tonight, continuing to get down a goal and fighting back. But, I'm really proud of our kids for battling the way they did and finding a way to tie it up each time, just wish we could've found a way to get the lead."

The Gophers received goals from Kate Schipper, Sarah Potomak, and Sophie Skarzynski along with a 21-save effort from Sidney Peters in the program's sixth-straight Frozen Four appearance.

Clarkson (31-4-5) was led by two points each from Genevieve Bannon (1g-1a), Savannah Harmon (1g-1a), Rhyen McGill (1g-1a), and Cayley Mercer (2a) while receiving 28 saves from Shea Tiley in net.

With the loss, Minnesota's run of consecutive appearances in the NCAA championship games comes to an end at five. The Gophers advanced to five-straight title games from 2012-13 to 2015-16 and won four NCAA crowns.

Minnesota's six seniors, Dani Cameranesi, Kelsey Cline, Paige Haley, Lee Stecklein, Megan Wolfe, and Schipper saw their college careers come to an end. Stecklein ends her career as a three-time national champion while the rest of the seniors won back-to-back titles after a runner-up showing in 2013-14.

"It's been a great four years at Minnesota regardless of how it ended," Stecklein said. "I'm really proud of how this team battled back all season. I feel like many people might not have thought we could get here, but we never doubted it and we found a way. I'm going to miss these girls, but it's been the best four years." 

"This senior class is some of my best friends," Pannek said. "They provide great leadership for this team whether they're seeing regular shifts or cheering loud from the bench, they fill every single role on this team. You can't say enough great things about them, and I think that's the hardest part -- we wanted to send them off with a third national championship and make Lee go four-for-four."

The Golden Knights took a 1-0 lead when Bannon buried a rebound from Harmon and Ella Shelton at the 12:55 mark of the first period, but Minnesota responded with a goal by Schipper with 2:06 remaining in the opening stanza. Caitlin Reilly threaded a pass through the slot, and Schipper poked it in to even the score at 1-1.

Clarkson regained the one-goal lead when Loren Gabel scored off a pass from Bannon at the 11:21 mark of the second period, but the Gophers again responded. Potomak scored top-shelf off a feed from Kelly Pannek and Sydney Baldwin with one minute remaining in the period and the teams headed into the second intermission tied up 2-2.

"To be able to go into both intermissions tied was huge for us," Pannek said. "At every intermission, we wanted to get the next one, but unfortunately we couldn't. Even til the very end, we just wanted to keep fighting. That's kind of been our season, just fighting back. We believed that we could score a goal until the clock was run out."

The third period mirrored the first two as Clarkson struck again at the 4:58 mark of the third period on an unassisted tally by Harmon, but Skarzynski netted her fourth of the year to tie the score at 3-3 with 5:03 to play. McGill then scored the game-winner with less than two minutes to play to secure Clarkson's spot in the national championship game.

In the first semifinal, Wisconsin used a goal by Mellissa Channell with just 17 seconds remaining to break a scoreless tie and punch its ticket to the national championship game. The Badgers and Golden Knights will face off in the title game at 2 p.m. CT Sunday with the game airing live on the Big Ten Network. 

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