Family Arena in St Charles, MO was packed to the gills for the first of two Women’s Division 1 semifinal games as the Wisconsin Badgersfaced off against the Boston College Eaglesin a tightly fought, low scoring contest that would punch a ticket for one club to Sunday’s championship game.
The events of the evening would open up 7 minutes and 20 seconds into the game as Badgers defenseman Jenny Ryan would acquire a slashing minor, putting Boston College on the power play for 2 minutes. Megan Keller would post the only shot for the Eagles on the man advantage. Wisconsin starting goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens would turn the opportunity aside, preventing Keller from finding the back twine.
Keller would give the Badgers a chance on the power play 14 minutes and 21 seconds into the opening frame after acquiring a checking penalty. Wisconsin would send 7 shots in the direction of the BC cage with only three reaching Eagles goaltender Katie Burt. Burt would turn away all three, returning BC to even strength. Both teams would exchange penalties late in the period heading to the intermission, remaining scoreless after 20 minutes.
The second period brought nothing forward to break the goalless gridlock. Great goaltending contributions on both ends kept things close. Megan Keller resounded how safe she felt with Burt backstopping her; Burt making that point very evident, coming up with two huge saves to keep Wisconsin’s fast-moving offense off of the board.
Both teams took to the ice starting the final frame, one still looking to find the back of the net. BC’s Megan Keller would acquire a roughing penalty 19 seconds into the period but Wisconsin was unable to make anything of the opportunity, releasing only one shot that was blocked by Badgers defenseman Kelly Ryan before it could reach Desbiens.
Katie Burt would be challenged numerous times throughout the course of the third with the shots heavily in favour of Wisconsin. Burt remained perfect for nearly the length of the contest but the fast-paced Badger offense proved their superiority. With 16 seconds left and a game poised for overtime, Wisconsin defenseman Melissa Channell received a feed from forward Annie Pankowski at the blue line to let a shot go that would find the back of the net and push Wisconsin past the BC Eagles to lock down a spot in the finals for the Badgers. Channell recalled later “totally blacking out” during the goal, just receiving the pass and finding the back of the net. When asked if there were any other goals that she felt topped it, she gave a usual defenseman answer, “I don’t score many goals, so I don’t know.”
Ann-Renee Desbiens would post 22 saves to pick up the win. Katie Burt turned away 35 chances for the Eagles and was awarded the loss. The BC Eagles finished the season at 28-5, Wisconsin at 32-2. Wisconsin would have to wait until the Clarkson-Minnesota semifinal to find out their opponent for the finals on Sunday.
Clarkson vs Minnesota
The second of two semifinal games would find the Clarkson Golden Knightstaking on the Minnesota Golden Gophersinan 8 o’clock contest to decide Wisconsin’s competitor for Sunday’s championship game. Sidney Peters would be between the pipes for the Gophers, Shea Tiley for the Knights. The Knights would prove superior in the end.
Clarkson’s Loren Gabel would start the contest with two quick shots, both turned aside by Peters. Gophers forward Taylor Williamson would take a hooking penalty at 10:43, taking away their momentum. Immediately after her penalty, the Golden Knights came back with Genevieve Bannon’s goal with assists from #14 Savannah Harmon and Ella Shelton. The Gophers reciprocated with two minutes left in the period to tie it up with a goal from #13 Kate Schipper and an assist from Caitlin Reilly. The end of the first would find both teams knotted at 1 a piece.
11 minutes and 21 seconds into the second period, Clarkson’s Loren Gabel would find the twine with a wrist shot assisted by Cayley Mercer. Minnesota’s Sarah Potomak would bury into the back of the Golden Knight’s net, with assists from Kelly Pannek and Sydney Baldwin, ending the period tied 2-2.
Golden Knights forward Savannah Harmon scored five minutes into the third with assists from Rhyen McGill and Amanda Titus. The Gophers came right back with a goal from Sophie Sarzynski to keep things even. Rhyen McGil would pick up the game winner for Clarkson with a minute and a half left in the third, that goal assisted by Cayley Mercer.
After the Gophers fell to the Golden Knights 4-3, Minnesota Captain Lee Stecklein was stuck choking back tears. The three-time national champion was not anticipating losing this game, stating, “It’s definitely a different feeling, one I would have loved to never have felt.” She and teammate Kelly Pannek both are optimistic for the younger group of players moving forward.
The Golden Knights will face off against the Badgers on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. CST at The Family Arena.