Gophers Advance to Frozen Four – Again
MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) – The Minnesota women's hockey team secured the program's fifth-straight NCAA Women's Frozen Four berth as the Gophers skated to a 6-2 NCAA quarterfinal win over Princeton Saturday.
Along with Amanda Kessel's hat trick, Minnesota (33-4-1) received goals from Brandt (1g-2a), Sarah Potomak (1g-1a), and Dani Cameranesi. Lee Stecklein and Kelsey Cline each added a pair of assists as well.
Amanda Leveille made 25 saves as the Gophers outshot the Tigers, 43-27. Princeton netminder Kimberly Newell finished with 37 saves, and Jaimie McDonell and Molly Contini scored goals for the Tigers.
"We’re really excited to be headed off to the Frozen Four," head coach Brad Frost said. "I told our team as we started the journey five months ago, 'Go give yourself an opportunity at the end,' and we’ve done that."
Princeton (22-9-2) took a 1-0 lead just 29 seconds into the game, but the Gophers responded with six-straight goals to cruise past the Tigers and on to Durham, N.H., for the 2016 NCAA Women's Frozen Four. Minnesota was 2-for-2 on the power play while holding Princeton scoreless on two opportunities with the man advantage.
After going down 1-0 in the opening 30 seconds on a goal by Princeton's McDonell, the Gophers responded with three special teams goals in the opening frame to take a 3-1 lead into the first intermission. Brandt and Kessel combined on all three first-period goals with each recording one goal and two assists. Brandt tied the game on a power-play goal at 4:47 before Kessel scored shorthanded at 6:01 and found the back of the net again on the power play at 17:35.
The Gophers scored three more goals in the final six minutes of the second period. Potomak scored her 14th goal of the season at 14:24. Cameranesi then extended Minnesota's lead to 5-1 by burying a breakaway tally at 16:36, and Kessel completed her hat trick just 26 seconds later.
"I thought they just played incredibly well here tonight, even after Princeton scored that first goal 30 seconds in," Frost said. "I really liked how our team responded, and getting a two-goal lead there in the first was big, and in the second, we just had a ton of pressure there through the first ten minutes and didn’t score. Some teams would have gotten frustrated, but our team just kept pushing and was able to find the cracking goal there in the second for those three goals."
The teams played a scoreless third period until Contini scored the Tigers' second goal with just 2.8 seconds remaining.
Minnesota will make its 12th overall Frozen Four appearance and fifth consecutive. The Gophers face the winner of Saturday's fourth NCAA quarterfinal game between No. 2 seed Wisconsin and Mercyhurst, which is set for 7 p.m. CT in Madison, Wis., in the semifinal round of the Frozen Four on Friday, March 18.
"We’re really happy we are able to be representing the University of Minnesota and the WCHA as we move forward into the Frozen Four," Frost said. "We really wanted to get through tonight. This quarterfinal game, I’ve said before, is one of the most stressful games as a coach because you’re finally to that scenario where if you lose you’re done."
Top-seeded Boston College (39-0-0) and Clarkson (30-4-5) also won NCAA quarterfinal games on Saturday as BC knocked off Northeastern, 5-1, and Clarkson upset No. 4 seed Quinnipiac by a score of 1-0. The Eagles and Golden Knights will also meet in the semifinal round in Durham, N.H., next Friday.
The Frozen Four semifinal winners face off in the 2016 NCAA national championship game at 1 p.m. CT on Sunday, March 20.