Gulstene’s shutout leads Minnesota to national championship game

The junior goaltender made 15 saves as Minnesota defeated Cornell 2-0 on Friday.

Sophomore goaltender Alex Gulstene makes a save. Gopher women's hockey beat Mercyhurst 4-2 in their season opener on Friday, Sept. 28 at Ridder Arena.

Tony Saunders

Sophomore goaltender Alex Gulstene makes a save. Gopher women’s hockey beat Mercyhurst 4-2 in their season opener on Friday, Sept. 28 at Ridder Arena.

Erik Nelson

It’s a border battle fight for the rights to the title of “NCAA Champions” in women’s hockey for 2019.

For the first time since 2016, the Gophers will be heading to the national championship game, thanks in large part to goaltender Alex Gulstene and Minnesota’s defense. 

No. 2 Minnesota (32-5-1) defeated No. 6 Cornell 2-0 (24-6-6) on Friday at People’s United Center in Hamden, Connecticut. Gulstene, who hadn’t played since March 9, stopped all 15 Cornell shots, winning her 20th game of the season and recording her third career shutout. After not making it in 2017 and 2018, Minnesota will face No. 1 Wisconsin (33-4-2) in the 2019 NCAA championship game.

“Any time you can be playing on the last day of the season, it’s a special moment and a special opportunity,” said head coach Brad Frost. “Our [players] battled today. We’re a high-scoring team and not known as much for defending well, but that’s exactly what our team did today.”

Left winger Nicole Schammel scored the game-winning goal. Schammel’s power-play marker at 12:09 of the second period gave Minnesota a 1-0 lead. After Big Red goaltender Marlene Boissonnault stopped a deflection from left winger Emily Oden, Schammel deposited home the rebound, scoring her 16th goal of the season.

“We did a great job of getting bodies to the net and the rebound came right to me,” Schammel said. “I was lucky to be there.”

Left winger Sarah Potomak clinched the victory for the Gophers, scoring an empty-net goal at 19:27 of the third. It was Potomak’s 11th goal of the season.

The Gophers blocked 30 shots and killed off two penalties, not allowing a shot on-goal during either power play.

“We work on that a lot in practice,” Gulstene said. “Everyone wants to sell out and make sure you do everything you can to get the win.”

Big Red defender Micah Zandee-Hart said Cornell knew Minnesota was strong defensively as well as offensively.

“We knew goals were’nt going to come easily,” Zandee-Hart said. “We had our fair share of opportunities. We couldn’t put one in the back of the net. We had a strong game defensively.”

The 2019 NCAA championship game will take place on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Minnesota and Clarkson have won the past seven national championships. This championship game will be the sixth meeting of the season between Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Badgers lead the season series three games to two. Wisconsin defeated Minnesota 3-1 in the WCHA Final Faceoff championship game on March 10.

Frost said Minnesota has a mixture of youth and experience heading into Sunday’s championship game.

“It’s as exciting as it can get in our sport,” Frost said.