In a battle of two golden teams – the Gophers and the Knights – Clarkson outshined Minnesota for the second time in four years.
The Golden Knights thwarted the Gophers out of another national championship – what would’ve been their third consecutive – with a 4-3 back-and-forth victory Friday.
Minnesota had won four national championships in the last five years prior to Friday. The only year the Gophers fell was in 2014, to the same Clarkson foe.
“Do we want a couple [goals] back on some missed assignments, a missed backcheck or something like that? Yeah, I do. Would they want a goal or two back as well? Absolutely,” said head coach Brad Frost. “It’s just hockey … We kept getting the momentum back by tying it up, and if you take the lead it’s different, we were just never able to do that.”
Each period was near identical to the one before it, and Clarkson got on the board first every time.
Minnesota answered every Golden Knights tally, but a goal from Rhyen McGill with 1:31 remaining left the Gophers without enough time to mount a comeback.
Clarkson immediately came out with energy, while Minnesota struggled to wake up early in the game.
Eventually the Gophers found a groove and tied the game after the first 20 minutes with a goal from senior assistant captain Kate Schipper.
Like clockwork, the Golden Knights came out and scored midway through the second period to take the lead.
And again, the Gophers tied the game, this time from Sarah Potomak.
“To be able to go into both intermissions tied was huge for us,” said junior Kelly Pannek. “Every intermission we wanted to get the next one.”
Clarkson pulled ahead again in the third period, but then Sophie Skarzynski was the equalizing hero for Minnesota.
But the Golden Knights went the extra mile before regulation ran out and the Gophers couldn’t strike again.
“They’re just a really fast team and they found a way to counter when we made mistakes,” said senior captain Lee Stecklein. “A few plays you’d definitely like back, but that’s the game of hockey I guess.”
Clarkson’s speed was a huge factor in the game, and Minnesota struggled for most of the tilt to keep up.
The Golden Knights kept composure every time the Gophers answered, which showed in their last-minute goal, a rebound effort from McGill.
Cayley Mercer was impactful on offense for Clarkson. The Patty Kazmaier Award finalist had two assists in the game, one on the final and deciding goal.
Minnesota redshirt junior Sidney Peters helped keep the game within one with a big pad deflection in the third period, and allowed her teammates to score yet another tying goal later on. She tallied 21 saves total.
“We could’ve done a little better in front of her, we didn’t help her out too much,” Pannek said. “Any time a puck gets by her, she’s always the first one to say, ‘We’re gonna get one.’ Her positivity is huge.”
Minnesota had a shot advantage in every period but the third and on the game, but a solid combination of quick Clarkson defense and goaltender Shea Tiley made it difficult for the Gophers to get any shots through.
Minnesota was an underdog coming into the tournament, the only unseeded team, and its season was marred injuries and adjustments – but it’s all part of a bigger story for the Gophers.
“It’s hard when your season kind of comes down to one game,” Pannek said. “But we know that our season is so much more than this game.”