ST. CHARLES, MO. – Brad Frost's Gophers women's hockey superpower has found its Kryptonite from a little school in upstate New York.
The Clarkson Golden Knights — the same team that defeated Minnesota in the 2014 NCAA title game — knocked the Gophers from the Women's Frozen Four on Friday night, winning a seesaw game 4-3.
Clarkson grabbed a new lead in each period, and the Gophers answered each of the first three times, getting goals from Kate Schipper, Sarah Potomak and Sophie Skarzynski.
But Rhyen McGill added a rebound goal with 91 seconds remaining, lifting No. 2 Clarkson into Sunday's NCAA championship game against No. 1 Wisconsin.
In the first semifinal, the Badgers got a goal from Melissa Channell with 16 seconds remaining in regulation to pull out a 1-0 victory over Boston College. So both games were decided late in the third period, with the Gophers joining the Eagles in crushing defeat.
"It hurts," said Frost, whose team had won four of the previous five NCAA titles. "Our team came a long way this year. Hoping for a better result, but didn't get it."
The Gophers (26-8-5) battled a slew of injuries this winter and were unseeded heading into the tournament. But they opened with a 1-0 quarterfinal victory at Minnesota Duluth, a team that had defeated its in-state rival three times.
Frost said his team was relishing the underdog role, but the season came to a sudden end when time expired against Clarkson. It happened before a sparse crowd, announced at 2,762, in the 9,600-seat Family Arena, out in the northwestern St. Louis suburb of St. Charles.
Gophers captain Lee Stecklein missed a chance to become the only Division I college hockey player — men's or women's — to win four NCAA titles. The Roseville native spent the 2013-14 season playing for the U.S. Olympic team, so she missed that year's championship game against Clarkson.
All the Gophers did in Stecklein's other three seasons was win.
"It's definitely a different feeling, one I would have loved to have never felt," Stecklein said. "But it was just great to play at Minnesota, regardless of how it ended, and I'm just proud of how this team battled back all season."
Clarkson, a school of 4,300 students in Potsdam, N.Y., never had won an NCAA title in any sport before defeating the Gophers 5-4 in the 2014 title game in Hamden, Conn.
The Golden Knights have a few players remaining from that team, including dangerous senior forwards Genevieve Bannon and Cayley Mercer.
Bannon scored Clarkson's first goal and assisted on the second goal this time. On the game-winner, Mercer took a low shot, and Gophers goalie Sidney Peters made a pad save. But the rebound went to McGill, who flipped the puck into the net, touching off a big celebration.
Clarkson (31-4-5) is too focused on its own goal of winning another NCAA title to think too much about how it has derailed a Minnesota quest for a three-peat twice in the past four years.
"I think any time you can have that kind of experience and had some players who've gone through that before [beating Minnesota], it definitely helps you," said ninth-year Clarkson coach Matt Desrosiers.
The Gophers killed off the game's only penalty in the first period and didn't have one power play opportunity of their own. In a back-and-forth game, they never went to intermission trailing but just couldn't get the lead. For the game, they outshot the Golden Knights 31-25.
"It was a good hockey game," Frost said.
"Sure, do we want a couple back? Maybe on some missed assignments, some missed back checks or stuff like that. Would they want a goal or two back as well? Absolutely, it's just hockey."