MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – March 7, 2020 – No. 1 seed Wisconsin will meet No. 3 seed Ohio State in the 2020 WCHA Final Faceoff Championship Game Sunday after both squads posted victories in Saturday's semifinals at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis.
The two teams took different paths to the final, with Badgers scoring a 4-1 victory over No. 4 seed Minnesota Duluth while the Buckeyes rallied from a 2-0 second-period deficit to down No. 2 seed Minnesota in overtime in Saturday's finale.
Wisconsin will be seeking its ninth postseason crown in its 12th trip to the championship game. Ohio State is making its second appearance in the title tilt – its first since the second WCHA championship game in 2001 – and is in search of the school's first WCHA postseason banner.
WCHA Final Faceoff Semifinal 1: Wisconsin 4, Minnesota Duluth 1
Wisconsin's Abby Roque potted a first-period power play goal and Daryl Watts and Caitlin Schneider scored in the second period to stake Wisconsin to a 3-1 lead en route to a 4-1 victory over Minnesota Duluth in Saturday's first semifinal.
"We just played (Minnesota Duluth) two weeks ago so from that standpoint, the players had a pretty good vision of what we were up against," Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson said following the game. "Then it's just a matter of – in these playoff games – can you start fast, can you come out quick? We took advantage of a power play early on to do that. I liked the way we played the first period, and as our players said, you're going to get push back. That started the first two shifts of the second period. We gave up three-on-twos and scoring opportunities and they created energy from that."
Minnesota Duluth closed the shot gap in the second period, outshooting Wisconsin, 16-7, in the period but could not find the back of the net against Badger netminder Kristen Campbell. The only scoring the period came off the stick of Schneider who pushed the Badger lead to 3-1 at 7:57 on a feed from Delaney Drake.
Sophie Shirley added a late empty-net goal for the Badgers and Campbell turned away 34 UMD shots, negating a 35-20 shot advantage for the Bulldogs. Senior Sydney Brodt scored the lone goal for Minnesota Duluth. Maddie Rooney made 26 stops for UMD.
"It was a tough first period, but I thought we responded well," Minnesota Duluth head coach Maura Crowell said. "We picked up some serious momentum in the second period and got a lot of opportunities in the third, but credit Wisconsin for being a great hockey team and get it done. Really proud of our team. It was a great hockey game and that's what we expected going in. But it's tough. These are tough days for us.
Minnesota Duluth is now 16-11-6 on the season while Wisconsin moves to 28-4-3.
WCHA Final Faceoff Semifinal 2: Ohio State 4, Minnesota 3 (OT)
Ohio State's Tatum Skaggs scored at 4:56 of overtime to defeat Minnesota, 4-3, in the second semifinal of the 2020 WCHA Final Faceoff at Ridder Arena in Minneapolis Saturday. Skaggs' winning goal came off a rebound of a Liz Schepers shot and sends OSU to the WCHA's championship game for just the second time in program history. OSU's only other appearance came in 2001.
"Our program over the last four years has really built off of a foundation of character," Ohio State head coach Nadine Muzerall said. "I can't stress enough what fine young women these 22 are. There's so much pride. It's hard enough to play the No. 2 team in the country at their rink and being down 2-0, we were on our heels and they outplayed us. We just challenged the girls. It's about character, grit, being unified and being a family and they found a way."
Sophomore Amy Potomak potted a pair of unassisted goals to stake the Golden Gophers to a 2-0 second period lead but strong goaltending from sophomore Andrea Braendli kept the Buckeyes in the game early as Minnesota outshot Ohio State, 17-3, in the opening period but only found the back of the net once on the first of Potomak's two goals at 4:33.
The score stood at 2-0 after Potomak second goal at 3:04 of the second period but Skaggs got the Buckeyes on the board just 1:22 later with her 15th goal of the season. Ohio State equalized late in the period when Jenn Gardner banged home a rebound off a shot from Paetyn Lewis to tie the score at 2-2, but Minnesota retook the momentum less than two minutes later on a 5-on-3 power play goal from Taylor Heise to give the Golden Gophers a 3-2 lead that they carried into the second intermission.
The lead held for the Gophers until late in the third period when Gardner punched a shot past Minnesota netminder Sydney Scobee at 7:27 to deadlock the contest at 3-3 and send the game into overtime, the first in the WCHA semifinals since 2017.
Braendli made 38 stops in the Buckeye victory while Scobee finished the night with 24 saves for Minnesota.
"It wasn't the result we wanted, obviously." Minnesota head coach Brad Frost said following the loss. "We were wanting to play for a championship tomorrow, and we are not going to be able to do that. But I'm proud of our team. I thought we played a pretty solid game. Turned the puck over a couple times, couldn't get it out when we needed to, including the one in overtime. It's hockey. I'm sure they wanted different things to happen on the three goals against and we obviously wanted different things to happen on the four goals against us. I liked how we played an hopefully can extend our season and play again next week.
Ohio State moves to 21-8-6 on the season. Minnesota's record stands at 25-6-3.
About the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Women's League
The Women's League of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association is marking its 21st season in 2019-20. The nation's premier women's hockey conference, WCHA member institutions have won a record 17 national championships since the league's inception in 1999 (including 16 of a possible 19 NCAA titles), while producing seven Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winners, 101 All-Americans and numerous Olympic and national team members. The seven-team, NCAA Division I conference consists of: Bemidji State University (Beavers), the University of Minnesota (Golden Gophers), the University of Minnesota Duluth (Bulldogs), Minnesota State University (Mavericks), Ohio State University (Buckeyes), St. Cloud State University (Huskies) and the University of Wisconsin (Badgers). For more information, visit wcha.com.