The No. 2 Golden Gopher women’s hockey team played in its 10th all-time national championship game but fell short of the program’s eighth national title with a 2-0 loss to border rival Wisconsin in front of 3,423 fans in the 2019 NCAA Frozen Four final at the People’s United Center in Hamden, Conn., on Sunday afternoon.
The WCHA regular season champion, Minnesota (32-6-1) surrendered one goal in each of the first two periods and could not solve Wisconsin netminder Kristin Campbell, who finished with 27 saves. Alex Gulstene made 30 saves, including multiple stops one-on-one against the Badgers, to lead the Maroon & Gold.
“I’m just so proud of our team,” head coach Brad Frost said. “This is an awesome group, and I’ve enjoyed every day with them. They left it out there tonight. It felt like we were inches away all night… We were close, but not close enough tonight.”
Wisconsin (34-4-2) received goals from Sophia Shaver and Annie Pankowski in the Badgers’ first national title since 2011. The Gophers and Badgers combine to own six of the last nine national titles with 2019 NCAA semifinalist Clarkson accounting for the other three (2014, 2017, and 2018).
The Badgers got on the board first with the eventual game-winning goal by Shaver with 9:40 remaining in the opening period. From down low, Presley Norby dished a puck to Shaver, who one-timed it past Gulstene on her stick side. The Gophers trailed 1-0 at the first intermission but were not without quality scoring chances over the game’s opening 20 minutes.
The Gophers headed into the second intermission trailing 2-0. Minnesota could not capitalize on a pair of second-period power plays, and Wisconsin doubled its lead with a shorthanded goal from Pankowski at the 9:15 mark of the middle frame.
Shots on goal were even at 10-10 in the final stanza, and Alex Woken hit the post in the game’s final 90 seconds after the Gophers pulled Gulstene for the extra attacker with 2:12 remaining.
Minnesota finished 0-for-2 on the power play while holding Wisconsin scoreless on one opportunity with the skater advantage.
The border rivals split two regular season series, but the Badgers had the advantage in the postseason.
The game marked Minnesota’s 10th all-time appearance in the national championship game (7-3-0) and the Gophers’ sixth national championship game in the last eight seasons (4-2-0).
Gophers seniors Tianna Gunderson, Emma May, Kelly Pannek, Jackie Pieper, Nicole Schammel, Sophie Skarzynski, Sierra Smith, and Taylor Williamson closed out their careers with the Maroon & Gold as NCAA runners-up. Minnesota posted an overall record of 117-29-10 in 154 games over four years from 2015-16 to 2018-19.
Pannek leaves Minnesota as a two-time national champion while the rest of the senior class hung three banners as Golden Gophers. Minnesota won the 2016 national championship, took home the 2018 WCHA Final Faceoff title, and won the 2019 WCHA regular-season championship.
(info and photo courtesy of Gopher Sports)