HAMDEN, Conn. (AP) Vanessa Gagnon and Renata Fast each had a goal and an assist to lead Clarkson past Mercyhurst 5-1 on Friday and into the school’s first national championship game.
Jamie Lee Rattray added two assists for the Golden Knights (30-5-5), who trailed 1-0 after the first period before scoring five unanswered goals.
”Biggest win in the program’s history,” said Matt Desrosiers, who along with his wife, Shannon, are co-head coaches of the team. ”I give a lot of credit to the players that they just stuck with it, got the energy level back up and then just stuck with the game plan.”
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Clarkson will play two-time defending champion Minnesota in Sunday’s title game. The Gophers beat Wisconsin 5-3 in Friday’s first semifinal.
Jaclyn Arbour scored the only goal for Mercyhurst (24-9-4).
Clarkson goalie Erica Howe faced just 19 shots. Amanda Makela made 30 saves for the Lakers.
The 30 wins is a new school record for Clarkson, which has allowed one or no goals in 32 times this season.
Arbour scored for the Lakers eight minutes into the game. Howe saved Arbour’s initial backhand shot, but the puck ricocheted back to the sophomore who stuffed it past the right post.
Clarkson tied it five minutes into the second period. Fast’s shot from the right point hit the right post and bounced in. It was just her second goal this season.
The Knights took the lead when Gagnon saw the puck dribble out in front of the net and dove, Bobby Orr-style, reaching it with an outstretched backhand and putting it into the net.
”I saw it at the last second, so I dove for it and got the goal,” Gagnon said.
Christine Lambert then tipped in another shot by Fast, giving the Golden Knights a 3-1 lead after two periods.
Brittany Styner put the game away, taking a saucer pass from Jamie Rattray and shooting it high into the net 6:39 into the third period, and Shannon MacAully added an empty net goal late.
Mercyhurst, which made the Frozen Four last season, was playing it its 10th consecutive NCAA tournament. The Lakers have played in the national semifinals in four of the past six seasons, but made the finals just once, in 2009. They lost to Boston University 4-1 in the semifinals last season.
The loss was just the second for the Lakers in 13 games.
”We had an amazing run to get here,” Mercyhurst coach Michael Sisti said. ”Tonight wasn’t one of our best efforts and I think part of that is the way Clarkson played.”
The Lakers and Knights played twice earlier this season, in Potsdam. Mercyhurst won 2-0 in the first game and the teams tied 1-1 the next day.
Clarkson, which has never won a national title in any sport, will be a heavy underdog in Sunday’s championship game.
”We’re not backing down,” said Gagon. ”We’re going to be even more into it and they’re going to get a hell of a good game.”