The best players in women's collegiate hockey descended on The Family Arena in St Charles, MO over the weekend for the NCAA Women's Division 1 Frozen Four tournament. The Clarkson Golden Knights would face off against the Wisconsin Badgers in a 60 minute contest for the ages that would crown one club the victors for the 2016-2017 season.
Clarkson would win the opening draw to start the contest. The starting goaltenders, Clarkson's Shea Tiley and Wisconsin's Ann-Renee Desbiens, would both be forced to come up big in the opening frame. Throughout the duration of the first period, the Badgers struggled to win turnovers in the neutral zone. Junior forward Annie Pankowski would take a holding penalty halfway through the first. A close Wisconsin shot with 2:30 left in the first just couldn’t find its way to the back of the net, later accompanied by a tripping penalty from Mikaela Gardner. The Badgers would kill the penalty remaining in the first, with Sarah Nurse posting a shot on goal. The Badgers and Knights would end the first period scoreless.
Thirty seconds into the second, a power-play goal by Savannah Harmon pushed the Golden Knights up by one over the Badgers with assists from freshman Ella Shelton and senior Genevieve Bannon. Desbiens commented, “You just need to let it go, let the game keep going, and you need to save the next one,” adding later, “that’s how hockey goes.” The Badgers came back hard after the goal keeping it in the Clarkson zone for over two minutes.
Wisconsin junior Emily Clark recorded five shots on goal, one of which found the back of the net. However, not before getting a two-minute interference call, forcing the goal to be disallowed. Head coach Mark Johnson noted, “I understand why he called it.” The second period ended with 17 shots on goal by the Badgers but were unable to put any points on the board. Desbiens would face a total of 10 shots in the second.
Clarkson’s Shelton received a tripping penalty at the beginning of the third period, giving Wisconsin an upper hand on the power play. Unfortunately, the Badgers would not find the back of the net. Later on in the period, Shelton would receive another tripping penalty as well as being on the receiving end of a pretty hard hit, having to be helped off the ice by the Clarkson trainer. Golden Knight senior Cayley Mercer scored her 27th goal of the season with an assist from sophomore Loren Gabel.
Badgers pulled Desbiens with three minutes remaining in the third period. Wisconsin battled hard in the neutral zone to try to get the puck behind Tilly. With Desbiens on the bench, a knick- of-time save from Channell would keep the puck from finding the empty net, but not much later Clarkson’s Mercer came back with an unassisted empty net goal with less than forty-five seconds remaining in the game saying, “There was a rush of emotions, I didn’t really know how much time was on the clock.” Shea Tilley ended the game facing 41 shots, and a shutout in the championship game.
Clarkson head coach Matt Desrosier had a big smile on his face after the game saying, “I couldn’t be more excited, this group is a resilient bunch. We started off the season on a rocky foot a little bit with a losing record, then went the rest of the season losing one game since mid-October.” Coach Desrosier adding, “We got together as a group...hopefully having them envisioning themselves winning.”
After playing Wisconsin in September and suffering two losses against them, the team had their turning point for the whole season after that. When asked if it meant more to them because of their rocky start to the season, senior Cayley Mercer said this, “I think personally it didn’t matter who we were going to play today. I know like you said we did drop a couple of games to them earlier in the year. That definitely fuelled our fire, knowing that maybe we would have the opportunity to face them again,” adding, “It didn’t matter who we were going to play today, it could have been Wisco, it could have been BC, we’re still going to be the same intensity and work ethic and play our game no matter what.”
Clarkson will be taking their trophy back to upstate New York after defeating the defending national champions, The Minnesota Golden Gophers and the fast-moving, defense-focused Wisconsin Badgers to bring home their second NCAA championship in three Frozen Four appearances.