Gophers need overtime to reach Frozen Four

Minnesota defeated No. 5 Clarkson to earn a rematch with No. 2 Minnesota-Duluth.

by John Hageman

The Minnesota womenâÄôs hockey team doesnâÄôt seem to be able to win a game in regulation but has a knack for winning in overtime. For the fifth weekend in a row, the No. 3 Gophers sent a game into an extra period, but this time they cemented their spot in the NCAA Frozen Four with a 3-2 overtime win over No. 5 Clarkson at Ridder Arena on Saturday night. âÄúIt seems like IâÄôve been saying this for a few weeks, but weâÄôre in the entertainment business, and [we] continue to give our ticket holders their extra hockey,âÄù Gophers head coach Brad Frost said after SaturdayâÄôs victory. âÄúItâÄôs not necessarily how we drew it up.âÄù While the Gophers have struggled to end games in regulation this season, the extra time on the ice might help them in next weekendâÄôs Frozen Four. âÄúWeâÄôve been thereâĦbefore going into overtime, and I think that was a huge advantage to us,âÄù said junior captain Emily West, who scored the game-winning goal just 3:09 into overtime. âÄúWe didnâÄôt panic, we kept our composure, and I think you can really tell by the way we played.âÄù Minnesota scored first on a power-play goal from senior captain Brittany Francis , who came up the near side of the net and shot a puck that was deflected in at 14:19 in the opening period. âÄúI was trying to get it to Sarah [Erickson], and it went off their defense and went in,âÄù Francis said. âÄú[WeâÄôll] take what we can get.âÄù It looked as though Clarkson had tied the game with a power-play goal in the middle of a scrum at 15:29 in the second period. But a review found that a Clarkson player had purposely kicked the puck in with her skate inside the crease, and the goal was waved off. The Gophers went up 2-0 after a goal by West at 17:36 in the second. West brought the puck up the ice and had her shot denied, but when Erickson put a shot on the net, West was there for the rebound. Minnesota held a 2-0 lead entering the final period, but Clarkson proved tough to put away. Golden Knights junior Melissa Waldie scored on a 2-on-1 breakaway to put the game within reach. âÄúIt got us going,âÄù Waldie said. âÄúEveryone was excited. I think it gave us momentum.âÄù It looked as though the Gophers would hang on to become the last Frozen Four team, however, when they took a one-goal lead into the final two minutes of regulation. But with 1:44 remaining, Clarkson sophomore Juana Baribeau s ent the puck from just inside the blue line past Gophers freshman goalie Noora Räty , who seemed to get herself in a bad position with nobody near the net and just missed catching the puck as it sailed over her glove. Frost said the Patty Kazmaier finalist apologized to him for letting in the goal when the teams were shaking hands after the game. âÄúIâÄôm like, âÄòDonâÄôt ever say sorry to me again,âÄôâÄù Frost said. âÄúI mean, if thereâÄôs one player who never needs to say sorry, itâÄôs her. She played strong all night and sheâÄôs played strong all year for us.âÄù But just over three minutes into the extra period, West stole the puck deep in the Clarkson zone and slid it past junior goaltender Lauren Dahm for her Division I-leading 10th game-winning goal of the season. âÄúI knew that I had been shooting all night low left, and that maybe she would bite on that and [I could] just try and sneak it in,âÄù West said. The Gophers joined Cornell, Mercyhurst, and Minnesota-Duluth in next weekendâÄôs Frozen Four at Ridder Arena. âÄúI think all of us as a staff and our players look at it as a real privilege and a real opportunity to host [the Frozen Four] and now to be able to play in it,âÄù Frost said. Now two wins from their third NCAA title , the Gophers will face archrival Minnesota-Duluth at 7 p.m. Friday in a rematch of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association title game, which the Bulldogs won 3-2 last Sunday. When asked if they were ready for another crack at Minnesota-Duluth, which has won the last three games against Minnesota, the players had a clear consensus. âÄúOh yeah,âÄù West said.