Minn. women advance to NCAA title game

Published 3:32 pm Saturday, March 22, 2014

HAMDEN, Conn. — Hannah Brandt and Kelly Terry each had a goal and an assist and Minnesota scored three times in the third period to beat Wisconsin 5-3 Friday in an NCAA women’s hockey semifinals.

The win moves the Gophers (38-1-1) back into the national title game, where they will be seeking their third consecutive NCAA championship.

They will play the winner of Friday’s second semifinal between Mercyhurst and Clarkson.

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The Gophers trailed 1-0 after the first period, and 3-2 after the second.

But Hannah Brandt tied the game with a power-play goal, and Rachael Bona scored the game-winner at 8:06 of the third period. She skated into the zone, making moves across her body from her forehand to her backhand and back again, before beating goalie Alex Rigsby to the stick side.

“Normally when I do that, I go to my backhand,” Bona said. “I just pulled it to my forehand and it went in. She was sliding with me right, and so I put it back left.”

Baylee Gillanders added an insurance goal with 2 1/2 minutes left in the game on a no-look pass from Brandt. It was Minnesota’s fifth win this season over Wisconsin (28-8-2).

“This one, it stings and I’m sure the players feel it,” Badgers coach Mark Johnson said. “I thought we played well. It obviously wasn’t well enough.”

Wisconsin pressed the attack early, outshooting the Gophers 16-7 in the first period.

Brittany Ammerman broke through with 1:22 left in the period, taking a turnover into the Minnesota zone and beating Amanda Leveille through the five-hole from the right circle.

Minnesota tied it up 33 seconds into the second period. Dani Cameranesi’s backhand shot hit the post and ricocheted out to Terry in front.

Less than two minutes later, Rigsby tried to clear a shot by Terry to the left corner, but sent it right to Maryanne Menefee, who beat her from a bad angle to give the Gophers a 2-1 lead.

Katy Josephs tied it up for the Badgers with 3:40 left in the second. She took a pass from Katarina Zgraja in the neutral zone, stepped across the blue line and snapped shot past Leveille’s right pad.

Two minutes later, with just 30 seconds left before the second intermission, Karley Sylvester slapped a one-timer past Leveille from the right side to make it 3-2.

It was just the third time Minnesota had trailed after two periods this year. The others came in their loss to North Dakota and the 1-1 tie with Ohio State.

“We knew we weren’t playing very well, and (the coaches) made sure we knew that as well,” Brandt said. “We came out and played a great third period.”

Leveille stopped 34 shots for Minnesota. Rigsby made 23 saves.

The Gophers had a 62-game winning streak snapped by North Dakota in November, and then went undefeated over their last 26 games.

Minnesota is looking for its fifth title, which would tie it with Minnesota Duluth for the most in women’s hockey. Wisconsin, which also has four titles, is the only other team to have won championship in the 14-year history of the tournament.

“I didn’t even know if I was going get one and on Sunday I’ll be playing for my third in three years,” Bona said. “To win it, I can’t even imagine what it will feel like.”