The Frozen Four finals weekend was played at the People’s United Center in Hamden, Connecticut, home of Quinnipiac University. It was the Badgers’ fifth title, having previously won in 2011, 2009, 2007, and 2006. All wins have come under legendary head coach Mark Johnson, the same Mark Johnson who led the U.S. to a Miracle On Ice gold medal at the 1980 Olympics.
For the Golden Gophers, it was a disappointing ending to a great season as they also were looking for their fifth championship (2004, 2005, 2012, 2013).
The Badgers started the season winning 19 of their first 20 games and ended with only four losses in 41 games. Minnesota was just as impressive, posting a record of 32-6-1 and advancing to the finals after beating Cornell, 2-0, in the other semi-finals last Friday.
In the playoffs, Wisconsin beat Syracuse, 4-0, Clarkson, 5-0, and then the Gophers, 2-0. The win against Clarkson was particularly special because the Golden Knights had won the last three championships.
Wisconsin opened the scoring midway through the first period. Presley Norby came out of the corner and made a move to go behind the Minnesota goal, but before she did, she sent a sneaky pass out front to Shaver, whose quick shot squeaked past Alex Gulstene in the Gophers’ goal.
Pankowski made it 2-0 midway through the second on a sensational individual effort. Campbell made a great save on a Minnesota power play, and as the puck went out to centre Pankowski got it. Surrounded by opponents, she skated into the offensive end on her backhand side and lifted a high shot from a bad angle over Gulstene, who was going down on the play.
It was Pankowski’s fifth goal of the playoffs (i.e., of her team’s eleven goals) and third of the finals weekend.
For fans of international hockey, Wisconsin claims several notable players including Pankowski and Grace Bowlby for the U.S. national women’s team and Canada’s Sophie Shirley and Emily Clark. Those four will celebrate as teammates for a few days and then will face each other as rivals at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, which begins in Espoo, Finland on 4th April.
NOTE: Canadian Loren Gabel of Clarkson University was named 2019 winner of the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award as the NCAA’s best women’s player. The native of Kitchener, Ontario, beat out Pankowski and Boston College defender Megan Keller to win the prestigious honour.