NCAA women’s hockey: Gophers fall to Clarkson in semis – TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press
ST. CHARLES – Minnesota captain Lee Stecklein could barely hold her emotions back Friday night.
Stecklein was asked about her four-year career, which came to an abrupt end with a 4-3 loss to No. 2 Clarkson in the NCAA Frozen Four Women’s Ice Hockey semifinals at the Family Arena.
“It’s definitely a different feeling, one I would’ve loved to have never felt,” Stecklein said. “It’s been a great four years at Minnesota no matter how it ended.”
Rhyen McGill scored the game-winner for Clarkson with 1:31 left in regulation as the Golden Knights ended No. 5 Minnesota’s quest for history. The Gophers were seeking to become just the second team in NCAA history to win three straight national championships.
Stecklein and Minnesota’s five other seniors had never ended a season without hoisting a national championship trophy, until now..
Kate Schipper, Sarah Potomak and Sophie Skarzynski scored for No. 5 Minnesota, which ended the season with a 26-78-5 record. Sidney Peters made 21 saves.
“We were chasing a lot tonight, continuing to get down a goal and fighting back,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “But I’m really proud of our kids for battling they way they did and tying it up each time. I just wish we could have found a way to get the lead.”
Genevieve Bannon, Loren Gabel and Savannah Harmon also scored for Clarkson (31-4-5), which will face No. 1 Wisconsin (34-2-4) for the championship Sunday. Shea Tiley made 28 saves and Cayley Mercer had a pair of assists.
Only Minnesota-Duluth (2001-2003) has won three straight national championships. The Gophers had won four of the previous five titles heading into the Frozen Four.
McGill was in the right place at the right time for the game-winner as she banged home a rebound off of a Mercer shot.
“I saw Bannon have the puck and I saw her make the great pass over to (Mercer) and I knew Merc’ was a great player so I knew that shot was either going in or there was going to be a rebound right close,” McGill said. “So I just went to the net hard.”
Bannon gave Clarkson a 1-0 lead with 7:05 left in the first period. Bannon streaked in on a feed from Harmon and backhanded in her own rebound.
Schipper evened the game with 2:06 left in the opening frame. Schipper tapped in a perfect feed from Caitlin Reilly for her ninth goal of the season.
Gabel made it 2-1 Clarkson with 8:39 left in the second, ripping a one-timer from the slot off of a feed from Mercer from behind the net.
Minnesota once again tied the game with a late goal as Pannek found Potomak on a 3-on-2 rush. Potomak’s one-timer from the slot made it 2-2 with 1:00 minute left in the second.
“To go into both intermissions tied was huge for us,” Pannek said. “At each intermission we wanted to get the next one. Unfortunately we couldn’t.”
Harmon regained the lead for Clarkson at the 4:58 mark of the third. Harmon flashed some nifty stick-handling before launching a pinpoint wrister through a maze of Minnesota defenders.
Skarzynski banged home a loose puck in front of the net to tie it at 3-3 for Minnesota with 5:03 left in regulation.
“It just hard when your season kind of comes to one game, but we know our season is so much more than this one game,” Pannek said.