Gophers win WCHA tournament again, head to NCAAs

The women won the WCHA Final Face-Off title Saturday.

Womens gopher hockey won their third-straight WCHA Final Face-off on Saturday in Bemidji, Minn. Minnesota will begin its national title defense next weekend.

Image by Betsy Helfand

Women’s gopher hockey won their third-straight WCHA Final Face-off on Saturday in Bemidji, Minn. Minnesota will begin its national title defense next weekend.

by Betsy Helfand

BEMIDJI — The Gophers women’s hockey team captured the WCHA Final Face-Off title Saturday with a 3-1 win over North Dakota.

After the team won the WCHA regular-season crown last month, the only thing left to win is a third straight NCAA title.

“Our last goal is to make the Frozen Four and give ourselves an opportunity to bring the big trophy back,” head coach Brad Frost said.

The Gophers’ win Saturday marked their third straight WCHA Final Face-Off title.

“It never, ever, ever gets old,” junior defenseman Rachel Ramsey said. “Coach Frost made a comment in the locker room that, ‘You might as well pack up your bag and be done playing if it ever gets old.’”

North Dakota scored first, but Ramsey, who earned tournament MVP honors, put Minnesota on the board midway through the second period with a power-play blast that beat North Dakota goaltender Shelby Amsley-Benzie.

Ramsey said North Dakota’s first goal of the game gave the Gophers “a little fire.”

“It was kind of a reality check, especially with [No. 2] Wisconsin … going down 1-0 [to North Dakota and] just not being able to put the puck in the net,” she said. “That’s kind of how it looked for a while. … We were having all the chances, just not scoring.”

Ramsey helped ignite the offense again in the second period.

Minnesota sophomore forward Hannah Brandt got her stick on a Ramsey shot to give the Gophers the game-winning goal.

“I didn’t see it until the last second,” Brandt said. “I just tried to get a piece of it, and luckily, it directed right into the net.”

Gophers freshman forward Dani Cameranesi netted an empty-net goal with less than two minutes left to cement the lead.

Minnesota also made a comeback Friday against Minnesota-Duluth in the semifinals. After falling behind a goal in the second period, the Gophers broke the game open.

Minnesota junior forward Rachael Bona said the Bulldogs pushed her team to a “different comfort zone.”

Frost said the Bulldogs brought a different level of aggression Friday than they did when the two teams faced off two weekends ago. The Gophers swept that series by a combined score of 12-0.

On Friday, however, the Bulldogs did a good job of taking away time and space.

Frost said his message to the team during the second intermission was to play the way he knew it could.

“[I told them], ‘The game’s called ‘hockey,’ not ‘perfect,’ so quit trying to hold yourself to being perfect.’”

The Gophers responded, scoring three goals in the third.

Minnesota can now shift its focus to the NCAA tournament next weekend.

The Gophers, who are the No. 1 seed in the tournament, will take on Boston University at Ridder Arena next Saturday in a rematch of last year’s NCAA championship game.

Minnesota won that matchup 6-3 to claim its second straight NCAA title.