With a berth to the Women's Frozen Four on the line, the Gophers weren't surprised to see things turn chippy Saturday in the NCAA quarterfinal against the Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology.
RIT entered as the third-most penalized team in the nation, and the Tigers had to find a way to neutralize Minnesota's superior talent.
It turned into a parade to the penalty box, and that eventually played right into the Gophers' hands.
Rachel Ramsey, Maryanne Menefee and Hannah Brandt delivered power-play goals, helping Minnesota pull away for a 6-2 victory before an announced crowd of 1,796 at Ridder Arena.
The Gophers lost two second-line forwards — Kelly Pannek and Meghan Lawrence — to game misconducts and had to kill off two five-minute major penalties. But they still did what they had to do, advancing to next week's Frozen Four, which returns to Ridder Arena for the first time since they won their last NCAA title in 2013.
The top-seeded Gophers (32-3-4) will play Wisconsin on Friday in the semifinals, with the winner facing either Boston College or Harvard in next Sunday's NCAA title game.
"There's a lot of pressure on our kids," Gophers coach Brad Frost said. "There has been all year when you know the Frozen Four was sold out three months ago."
RIT (15-19-5) was thrilled just to make the NCAA tournament after winning the Division III title three years ago and then making the jump to Division I.
The Tigers upset Mercyhurst and Syracuse to win the College Hockey America conference tournament.
Senior goaltender Ali Binnington gave up bad-angle goals to Minnesota's Milica McMillen and Kate Schipper within the first five minutes. "Nerves definitely played a part in the opening 10 minutes," said Binnington, whose team was outshot 52-19. "I'm not used to playing some of the players of that caliber."
Gophers freshman Kelly Pannek drew a five-minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind, and RIT used that extended power play to trim the lead to 2-1.
But after RIT drew its third minor penalty of the first period, Ramsey, the All-America defenseman, delivered a blast from the point on the power play to make it 3-1.
"That's not the player you want teeing one up from the blue line with a clear look," RIT coach Scott McDonald said. "It definitely puts you right back on your heels again."
The Gophers came in leading the nation with a 30.2 percent success rate on the power play and converted three of five chances.
The Gophers also had to kill off a five-minute penalty to start the second period after Meghan Lawrence was called for hitting a player with the butt end of her stick. Despite the game misconduct penalties, Lawrence and Pannek are both eligible to face Wisconsin.
"It was chippy early on, but I can promise you Kelly Pannek didn't run the kid from behind on purpose there," Frost said.
"The butt-end, watching it on video, I see something different [than the referees did]. But more importantly, it really brought our team together knowing they'd have to work that much harder and stay together."