Gophers shock Wisconsin to win WCHA Final Faceoff Championship

Taylor Williamson scored the go-ahead goal in the second period.

The Gophers celebrate their empty-net goal late in the third period to seal their victory in the WCHA championship game against Wisconsin at Ridder Arena on Sunday, March 4.

Max Ostenso

The Gophers celebrate their empty-net goal late in the third period to seal their victory in the WCHA championship game against Wisconsin at Ridder Arena on Sunday, March 4.

Max Biegert

Hockey sticks, gloves and helmets from Minnesota flew in the air as the players and coaches rushed to embrace each other, horn blaring to signify the end of the third period. 

In the moments during that celebration, thoughts of missing the NCAA tournament disappeared. 

No. 7 Minnesota (24-10-3) stunned No. 1 Wisconsin (30-4-2) 3-1 in the WCHA Final Faceoff Championship Sunday afternoon at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

Taylor Williamson, who is just six months removed from being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, scored the go-ahead goal in the second period. Goaltender Sidney Peters and the defense took care of the rest. Peters had her second consecutive game with more than 30 saves. She had 31 on Sunday. 

“To be able to throw up your gloves and jump on a pile and hang a banner is just phenomenal,” head coach Brad Frost said. “The growth they have shown from day one to now is just phenomenal.”

Nicole Schammel started the celebration early, scoring an empty-net goal that sealed the championship victory with just 14 seconds left in the game. 

The Gophers faced Wisconsin four times prior to meeting in the championship game. Each one of those games ended with Minnesota losing by a single goal. Frost said in the games they lost to Wisconsin, the Badgers were the team scoring the timely goals. 

That changed Sunday. Minnesota had two goals from tip-ins: the first coming 1:06 into the game off of a shot from defenseman Emily Brown, where freshman Taylor Wente scored off the rebound.

Wisconsin got a goal back when  Delaney Drake scored, her first of the year, to tie the game up. 

However, just 1:30 into the second period with the game tied at one, Williamson put herself in front of the net. Freshman Olivia Knowles ripped a shot from the point, Williamson was there to tip it in and give Minnesota the lead. They never gave up the lead up after that.

“I was just doing everything I could do to get in front of the net,” Williamson said. “Olivia had a great shot.”

Entering the third period up 2-1, the Gophers knew they were going to get the best of Wisconsin. Both Williamson and Peters said that they knew they were going to play the period more defensively, but still put pressure on the Badgers. Peters stopped all 10 shots that came her way in the final period. 

The Badgers pulled their goalie with 1:50 left to play. During the Badgers attempt to tie the game up, Wente corralled a loose puck and got the puck out of the zone, only to find Schammel all alone with an empty net. 

The Gophers will await to see who they will play in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. The announcement will take place on Sunday night at 8 p.m.

“We are a lot better right now then we were earlier in the year and we know that defense wins championships,” Frost said.