For Gophers fans who didn’t travel to the Women’s Frozen Four when Clarkson interrupted their NCAA championship dynasty in 2014 and 2017, the Golden Knights brought the show right to Minnesota’s home rink Friday.
Clarkson hit the Ridder Arena ice wearing gold uniforms, riding high as the No. 1 seed for this Frozen Four.
Unseeded Ohio State proved itself as a serious threat, pushing the first NCAA semifinal deep into overtime, before Loren Gabel gave Clarkson a 1-0 triumph before an announced crowd of 3,369.
Clarkson (35-4-1) advanced to Sunday’s NCAA championship game, where it will face Colgate, which defeated Wisconsin 4-3 in double overtime in Friday’s second semifinal.
Colgate squandered three one-goal leads during regulation. Jessie Eldridge made it 3-2 with less than six minutes left in the third period, but Mekenzie Steffen answered with 3:24 left, sending the game long into the night.
Breanne Wilson-Bennett, who assisted on Eldridge’s goal, finally won it with her third goal of the game at the 16:03 mark of the second overtime, sending the puck past Wisconsin’s standout goalie Kristen Campbell.
“Honestly it’s all a blur right now,” Wilson-Bennett said. “I just shot the puck and there was good traffic in front of the net, and it happened to squeak in.”
The first game offered a spectacular duel between Clarkson’s All-America goaltender Shea Tiley, and her Ohio State counterpart, Kassidy Sauve.
Ohio State (24-11-4) actually outshot Clarkson 41-34, including 18-7 in the third period.
“They played their hearts out,” coach Nadine Muzerall said of her Ohio State players. “We scored a good goal, hit two pipes, killed off a penalty in overtime and just fell short.”
Muzerall’s “good goal” comment was a reference to the 12:33 mark of the second period, when Ohio State won a faceoff, and defenseman Jincy Dunne rifled a slapshot past Tiley. But Buckeyes forward Maddy Field knocked over a Clarkson player and a referee called her for interference, negating the goal.
“I saw our player box somebody out — she was stronger and bigger — and we had a nice shot from our All-American defenseman, and it was a heck of a shot, a ripper. … I’m not going to sit here and argue it, I just thought it was a nice faceoff play.”
Tiley smiled about the two Ohio State shots that hit pipes. Eden Prairie native Charly Dahlquist drew iron on a second-period chance, and Field dinged the same post five minutes into overtime.
“[The pipe] kind of bailed me out, so, gotta thank it,” Tiley said. “But they were coming hard. I got pretty nervous; I was not happy with myself at the time, but it all worked out in the end.”
It worked because Clarkson’s Michaela Pejzlova made a strong back-checking play 16 minutes into overtime and passed to freshman Elizabeth Giguere, setting up the winning rush.
With Gabel dashing for the net, Giguere sent the pass, and Gabel beat Sauve glove side at 16:12.
“I just got it right off my stick, put everything I could off of it, and put it in the back of the net,” said Gabel, one of three Patty Kazmaier Award finalists with 36 goals and 39 assists.
Clarkson, a school of 3,270 students from Potsdam, N.Y., upset the Gophers in Hamden, Conn., to win the 2014 NCAA championship.
That was Minnesota’s only non-NCAA title season between 2012-2016.
Clarkson also defeated Minnesota in last year’s NCAA semifinals in St. Charles, Mo., before upsetting top-seeded Wisconsin for the title.
The Golden Knights also needed overtime last weekend against Mercyhurst in the NCAA quarterfinal before Giguere scored for a 2-1 win.
“It’s been pretty crazy,” Tiley said.