HAMDEN, CONN. – Wearing her jersey for the last time, nearly a half-hour after the final whistle closed out her college career without a second national championship, Gophers senior forward Taylor Williamson was both disappointed and grateful.
Grateful because Williamson, who missed half of last season after being diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, had the opportunity to play again. Disappointed because the end result was one where the Gophers did not end up being the team wearing hats with “Champions” in giant letters.
In a championship matchup between the two top teams in college women’s hockey, the Badgers denied Minnesota a seventh NCAA title with a 2-0 victory.
“I thought that we came out ready to play in the first 10 minutes. I thought that we had the jump on them,” Williamson said. “If you talk to anyone in our locker room you would hear them say that they truly believed that we would win this game up until the final seconds there.”
Wisconsin, claiming its first national title since 2011, got 27 saves and a third consecutive shutout from Kristen Campbell, the Frozen Four’s Most Outstanding Player.
“You look at the journey this team has taken, and I’m just so proud of everybody,” Wisconsin redshirt senior Annie Pankowski said.
Wayzata native Sophia Shaver opened the scoring with a goal on Gophers goaltender Alex Gulstene midway through the first period. That proved to be the difference.
A period later, Pankowski, moments after Campbell denied Amy Potomak the tying goal on a Minnesota power play, went around a pair of Gophers forwards to score her ninth career shorthanded goal.
“Right when we thought we were getting a chance, they go the other way and score. Sometimes that’s just how the game works,” said Minnesota redshirt senior Kelly Pannek. “You always hope to capitalize on those power plays, but it just wasn’t for us today.”
Gulstene, getting the nod from head coach Brad Frost because of her international experience in big games and Friday’s shutout over Cornell, made 30 saves.
Minnesota had multiple opportunities to score on Campbell. The closest the team came was Alex Woken hitting the post late in the game with Gulstene pulled.
Frost jokingly lamented ‘‘being here without wearing a hat and seeing my receding hairline and all that. It’s hard.”
“This was a fun team to be around. I told them going into the third, I said, ‘This is awesome. Enjoy the moment. Let’s try to get one. I’d love for you guys to get two and send it to overtime so we can spend another 20 minutes together.’ They were trying. They played well.
"Wisconsin’s a great team and they’ve proved it all year.”
As it did in 2014, the People’s United Center served as the site of a Minnesota runner-up finish. That’s not how the Gophers will remember the 2018-19 season, however.
It’s a year full of little stories, whether it was Williamson’s final campaign or Pannek, along with Sarah and Amy Potomak, returning.
Gulstene got her chance while Nicole Schammel became a Patty Kazmaier Award finalist. Players grew into new roles and moved into new positions.
“These years have been the best years of our lives and we can only thank our teammates and our coaches and all the support staff for the constant devotion that they have given to us,” Williamson said.
“We’re eternally grateful for the ways that they have served us and helped us grow, not only as hockey players but as people.”