By Saturday afternoon, the Gophers women's hockey team knew it needed to do two things it hadn't done all season to keep playing beyond this weekend: beat Ohio State and Wisconsin.
One down, one to go.
The No. 7 Gophers defeated No. 5 Ohio State 2-0 in the WCHA semifinals before an announced crowd of 2,499 at Ridder Arena, with 33 saves from senior Sidney Peters and two goals from freshman Grace Zumwinkle.
Minnesota will meet No. 1 Wisconsin in the WCHA title game at 2 p.m. Sunday, and the Gophers need another win to secure an NCAA tournament bid when that eight-team field is announced at 8 p.m.
Entering the weekend, the Gophers were 0-3-1 against Ohio State and 0-4 against Wisconsin. But winning both games became a necessity after Connecticut upset No. 3 Boston College in the Hockey East semifinals.
"We had that kind of shock in the locker room, like 'OK, there goes our backup plan,' " Peters said. "But we dealt with that when it happened, kind of digested it and just put it away."
Boston College's loss means an unranked team — UConn or Northeastern — will get an automatic NCAA berth by winning the Hockey East tournament.
Another unranked team, Mercyhurst, won the CHA tournament title, sealing that automatic bid.
To extend the season, the Gophers (23-10-3) need their first WCHA tournament title since 2014. Wisconsin (30-3-2) is seeking its fourth conference tournament title in a row. The No. 1 Badgers got a hat trick from Baylee Wellhausen and 22 saves from Kristen Campbell in a 4-1 win over Bemidji State in Saturday's other WCHA semifinal.
"The four games we've played against [Wisconsin] so far have either come down to overtime or a goal in the last five minutes," Zumwinkle said.
One of the biggest keys to Ohio State's success this season has been junior goaltender Kassidy Sauve.
But Buckeyes coach Nadine Muzerall instead went with Amanda Zeglen, noting that the freshman has started in recent games. Zeglen wound up making 25 saves.
In a scoreless first period, the Buckeyes had one goal disallowed, with the refs ruling the net was off its moorings, and freshman Tatum Skaggs hit the pipe on a breakaway.
Minnesota grabbed the lead 2 minutes, 26 seconds into the second period, when freshman Taylor Wente made a pass to Zumwinkle on a rush, and she sent a low shot past Zeglen for the goal.
Zumwinkle, last year's Minnesota Ms. Hockey at Breck, added an empty-net goal with 59.5 seconds remaining, giving her a team-high 17 for the season. Frost said it was her best game of the season, with some strong net presence and backchecking.
"Just doing the things that I think are going to make her one of the best players in the country here over the next couple years," Frost said.
Peters' 33-save performance was reminiscent of last year's NCAA quarterfinal at Minnesota-Duluth, when she won 1-0, outdueling Maddie Rooney, who just led Team USA to the gold medal.
"Last year and this year, I think she's been playing her best at the end of the year," Frost said. "You have to have that if you're going to beat real good teams."