Gophers defenseman Emily Brown adheres to the popular sports mantra of controlling what you can control. On Saturday night, that meant doing her homework.
She can control that. What she can't control anymore: Minnesota's NCAA tournament chances.
"I'll do some homework and try to take my mind off things and into tomorrow, too, and wait to see what our future holds," Brown said.
Neither she nor the rest of Minnesota will learn their fate until 8 p.m. Sunday, when the eight-team field is announced. That is filled with uncertainty for the Gophers, thanks in part to their quick exit from the WCHA Final Faceoff.
The fourth-seeded Gophers began the weekend at Ridder Arena with a 5-3 loss to Wisconsin in the semifinals. The top-seeded Badgers will advance to the championship against Ohio State, which routed Minnesota Duluth 7-2 in the second semifinal after the Gophers fell to 0-4-1 against Wisconsin this season.
The Gophers (11-8-1) could have increased their chances of making the tournament for a 14th consecutive year if they had won, and they would have automatically secured a bid to the tournament by winning the WCHA Final Faceoff. Instead, their only chance is to make the tournament as one of the four at-large bids.
"We don't know what it is going to look like," Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. "I told them to prepare like we are going to see each other again and that we are going to be practicing on Monday. That's certainly the hope."
Hope is what they have to count on because of Saturday's result, in which Wisconsin (13-3-1) never trailed. The Badgers took a 1-0 lead with a goal from Sophie Shirley, an All-WCHA first-team selection, in the first period. Then freshman forward Makenna Webster broke out in the second period.
She tallied two goals to give Wisconsin a 3-1 lead heading into the second intermission.
The Gophers struggled to stay out of the penalty box with five trips compared to one for the Badgers. Three of those came in the second. Minnesota killed the first two, which included about 25 seconds of a 5-on-3, but Wisconsin converted the third.
"We practice the power play a lot and I would say by the third one, we knew exactly what they were going to do and what we had to do," Webster said. "Learn from past mistakes on the first two power plays and on the third, we were ready."
Minnesota managed two more goals in the third, but so did the Badgers after the Gophers switched goaltender Makayla Pahl for Lauren Bench. The two combined to give up five goals on 23 shots.
Now, the Gophers are done for the weekend, and they'll soon learn if they're done for the season.
"It's a goofy year," Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson said. "And I know one thing: We've got four teams here at this tournament that are worthy of being here that have had good seasons and certainly deserve to move on."