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Three-goal third leads Minnesota to championship game
The Minnesota Gophers topped the Wisconsin Badgers 5-3 thanks to Rachael Bona’s highlight reel goal in the third period, sending Minnesota to the NCAA Championship game on Sunday.
The Gophers trailed after the first and second period, but rallied with three goals in the third period to clinch a spot in the National Championship.
“They persevered and started playing the way we know they can and they believed they could get the job done and they found a way to do it,” said Minnesota head coach Brad Frost.
Bona scored the game winner after picking the puck bounced out to the neutral zone and the she picked up the loose puck. Bona toe dragged around Burke and brought the puck back to the forehand, before beating Alex Rigsby for her 22nd goal on the season.
“Normally when I do that, I go to my backhand,” Bona said. “I pulled it to my forehand and it went in. I think she was sliding with me right, so I put it back left.”
Minnesota’s sophomore goalie Amanda Leveille carried her team in the first, making 15 saves including a nice spread eagle save on Brittany Ammerman to keep the game scoreless. Leveille made 34 saves in total for her 38th win of the season.
Wisconsin put one past Leveille in the first on a 4-on-4. Ammerman took advantage of a two-on-one, firing a wrist shot through Leveille’s five hole for her 23rd goal of the season.
Minnesota bounced back and started fast in the second, scoring 33 seconds into the period. Dani Cameranesi skated around the Wisconsin defense and fired a shot off the post. Kelly Terry picked up the loose puck in the crease and tapped it in to tie the game at 1-1.
Courtney Burke took a body-checking penalty as Minnesota tied the game, sending the top power play in the country to work. After Rigsby sticked aside a shot, Maryanne Menefee played the puck to her stick off her skate to beat an out of position Rigsby.
Hannah Brandt added the Gopher’s third goal on the power play in the third. Milica McMillen found Brandt alone near the left face off circle and she put a wrist shot past a screened Rigsby.
Wisconsin’s second goal came late in the second period on Katy Josephs’ 12th goal of the season. The right-winger skated into the zone and fired a shot past Leveille’s blocker.
With 31 seconds left in the second period, Karley Sylester put the Badgers up 3-2. Madison Packer fed a pass to Sylester on top of the right faceoff circle, who fired a one timer into past Leveille.
Minnesota went to the locker room in the second period trailing for the third time this year and hadn’t won a game when trailing after two this year until today.
“Our captains, Baylee [Gillanders] in particular, tried to keep the team together,” Bona said. “Some of us were kind of down. We went up then we were down again. They were winning stuff going into the third so I think she did a great job trying to keep us together as a team.
Gillanders got rewarded for her locker room presence as she iced the game late in the third period. The senior defender took the pass from Brandt and rifled a slap shot that rattled around the post before going in for the Gophers’ fifth and final goal.
Minnesota will play for their third straight National Championship on Sunday against the winner of the second semifinal game between Clarkson and Mercyhurst.
“It’s going to be another tremendous hockey game and may the best team win,” Frost said.