MINNEAPOLIS (AP) For the fourth time in as many years, Minnesota will be playing for a national title.
Hannah Brandt and Maryanne Menefee each had a goal and two assists, Amanda Leveille made 34 saves, and the Golden Gophers beat Wisconsin 3-1 in a Frozen Four semifinal Friday.
Kelly Pannek also scored for top-seeded Minnesota (33-3-4), which is seeking a third national title in that span and sixth overall.
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The Golden Gophers will face third-seeded Harvard in Sunday’s final. The Crimson (27-5-3) beat Boston College 2-1 in Friday’s other semifinal.
”Wisconsin was awesome all night, just like we knew they would be,” said Minnesota coach Brad Frost. ”If it wasn’t for Amanda, I’m not sure we would have won that game. She was unbelievable, and our big-time players stepped up and were able to get the job done.
”Playing in our fourth NCAA championship game in four years is pretty incredible.”
Clarkson beat Minnesota 5-4 in last year’s title game.
Fourth-seeded Wisconsin (29-7-4) got its lone goal from Annie Pankowski.
Minnesota improved to 16-0-2 against its conference rival in their past 18 meetings – including 4-0-1 this season – dating to October 2011. That includes scoring three third-period goals in a 5-3 comeback win in last year’s national semifinals and a victory in the 2012 title game.
”I don’t know what it is, I think we’ve just kind of found a way to win these games,” Brandt said. ”It might be more of a psychological thing for them but, for us, we are just going out and trying to play our best game, and I think we always do when we are playing Wisconsin.”
Playing in its home rink, where the Golden Gophers are 18-1-3 this season, Minnesota fell behind early in the second period before scoring three straight goals later in the period.
Brandt netted her 33rd goal of the year off a scramble in front, and a rising shot from Megan Wolfe was deflected by Menefee nearly 2 minutes later. Badger goaltender Anne-Renee Desbiens immediately raised her stick claiming the puck was illegally touched, but replays ruled otherwise.
Pannek scored on a rebound for a power-play goal with 3:06 left in the period. It was just the fifth power-play goal allowed by the Badgers this season in 118 chances – three of those were to Minnesota.
”That was a backbreaker,” Frost said. ”I told them if we get a power-play goal against Wisconsin we were going to win.”
Pankowski gave Wisconsin a 1-0 lead 52 seconds into the second period.
Emily Clark won a draw in the right circle and the puck went to Pankowski near the slot. Her quick wrist shot beat Leveille.
Katy Josephs had a quality chance from the slot less than 3 minutes later for Wisconsin, but Leveille made a pad save and 90 seconds later the Badgers couldn’t put a bouncing puck into an open net during a scramble.
”There’s just the little bounces that didn’t go our way that could have changed the game. I think we had the opportunities, we just didn’t get our bounce,” Pankowski said.