– In the midst of accomplishing one of her team’s final goals for the season, returning to the final game of the college hockey season after a three-year absence, redshirt senior Nicole Schammel finally has her Frozen Four moment.

During the Gophers’ 2016 national championship run, Schammel was a member of the team yet could not play. The Red Wing native had to sit and watch after transferring from Minnesota State Mankato. In 2017, she was held without a shot in a Frozen Four semifinal loss to Clarkson.

But on the 16th Gophers shot of Friday’s game, Schammel scored her 16th goal for what proved to be the difference in a 2-0 victory over Cornell (23-6-6) in the first Frozen Four semifina.

Minnesota will play WCHA rival Wisconsin, which beat Clarkson 5-0 in the other semifinal, on Sunday afternoon in the championship game. The top-seeded Badgers (34-4-2) won 3-1 over the Gophers in the Final Faceoff on March 10 at Ridder Arena.

Schammel said she was real excited to score against Cornell: “I was hoping someone scored; it was a 0-0 game at that point. To be the one to get it is pretty special.”

The 2019 Patty Kazmaier Award top-10 finalist was in the right place to put second-seeded Minnesota ahead. After a scoreless back-and-forth first period in which the Gophers (32-5-1) hit a pair of posts on consecutive shifts, the team did not allow Cornell (24-6-6) to get a shot on sophomore goaltender Alex Gulstene during the opening 12 minutes of the second period.

Minnesota’s play led to Schammel getting her moment on the power play with 7 minutes, 51 seconds left in the second period. Emily Oden redirected a shot by Olivia Knowles directly to Schammel, who was able to roof it past Big Red goaltender Marlene Boissonnault for the first Gophers opening goal in five games.

“We just talked about staying with what we’re doing and trust the process, which we’ve talked about all year,” Schammel said. “We did a really good job of that.”

Boissonnault, who made 25 saves, and Cornell’s defense kept the Gophers offense, which entered the game averaging 4.27 goals per game, at bay after Schammel’s goal until Sarah Potomak’s empty-net goal in the final minute. Scoring chances in front of the net came at a premium.

Minnesota blocked 15 shots in the third period — and 30 overall — while holding on to the single-goal lead against a Big Red team that already had upset one seeded team.

“It’s the personal drive out here for such a big game,” Gulstene said. “Everyone wants to sell out and just make sure you can do everything you can just to get the win and, just as Coach said, just not leaving any regrets on the ice.”

Getting the start after Sydney Scobee played in Minnesota’s 5-2 NCAA tournament quarterfinal win, Gulstene made 15 saves for her third shutout of the season.

“It’s so hard to get to the Frozen Four, and then it’s so hard to get to the last game,” Gophers coach Brad Frost said. “Like, it’s really hard. So when you get there it’s such a reward just to get to that game. It’s just a great group and, as I told them before the game, I just want to spend a couple more days with them.

“It’s a special group that way.”

For Schammel and the rest of the Gophers, it will be one final opportunity for the biggest moment of them all.