MINNEAPOLIS - The top-ranked University of Minnesota women's hockey team scored four-straight goals to rally from an early deficit and post a 4-1 win over No. 4 seed Minnesota Duluth in the WCHA Final Faceoff semifinal round at Ridder Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Postgame Press Conference - Minnesota
Postgame Press Conference - Minnesota Duluth
Minnesota (30-4-1) received goals from Kelly Pannek, Nicole Schammel (2g), and Grace Zumwinkle along with an eight-save effort from Alex Gulstene in the team's sixth game of the season against the Bulldogs.
With the win, the Golden Gophers earned a place in the WCHA championship game at 2:07 p.m. CT Sunday. Minnesota faces the winner of Saturday's second semifinal between No. 2 seed Wisconsin and No. 3 seed Ohio State.
"I'm really happy with how our team played here tonight," head coach Brad Frost said. "They were on the puck and taking away time and space. Obviously getting a few past Maddie Rooney is a difficult task, but the team stuck with it, kept doing what we wanted them to do, and really played our game tonight. It was fun to watch.
"Obviously our seniors came through pretty big here tonight with their experience with Nicole and Kelly scoring three of the four goals, but overall we're really excited to be advancing and looking forward to tomorrow."
Minnesota Duluth (15-16-4) got on the board first with a goal by Gabbie Hughes when she solved Gulstene on the Bulldogs' lone shot on goal of the opening period at the 7:20 mark, but the Gophers responded quickly. Pannek tied the game at one just 5:28 later, solving fellow U.S. Olympic gold medalist Maddie Rooney to even the score at the 12:48 mark.
"We knew we wanted to get one before the end of the period," Pannek said of giving up the first goal of the game. "Obviously, we felt really confident in how we were playing up to that point and if we wouldn't have gotten that goal, we would have tried to get one in the second. More than anything, it was just knowing we had to score one to win the game in general - and then when they scored the first one, it was just getting it back."
The Gophers extended their lead to two during the second period as Schammel and Zumwinkle found the back of the net. The WCHA regular-season scoring champion, Schammel scored her 13th goal of the season at the 6:08 mark of the middle frame before Zumwinkle netted her team-leading sixth power-play goal of the year with 4:04 remaining.
The teams played a scoreless third period until Schammel iced the win with an empty-net goal with 2:29 remaining after UMD pulled Rooney for the extra attacker.
"Going into this game, we knew we wanted to have relentless pressure on the puck," Schammel said. "Having a weekend off, we really got our legs underneath us and came in fresh. We were just moving our feet and pressuring the puck the best we could."
Minnesota outshot the Bulldogs, 44-9, for the game, including a 17-1 advantage in the first period. Minnesota Duluth received 40 saves from Rooney along with the lone goal from Hughes.
For the game, Minnesota was one-for-three on the power play while holding the Bulldogs scoreless on their lone opportunity with the skater advantage.
WCHA Final Faceoff action continues on Saturday evening as No. 3 seed Ohio State and No. 2 seed Wisconsin meet in the second semifinal game at 5:07 p.m. CT at Ridder Arena.
The semifinal winners face off for the WCHA Final Faceoff title and the league's automatic berth into the NCAA tournament in the championship game at 2:07 p.m. CT Sunday. The game will air live on FOX Sports North and FOX Sports Wisconsin.