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Wisconsin women’s hockey wins WCHA tournament, earns No. 1 seed in NCAA tournament

Badgers defeat Gophers and earn top seed in NCAA tournament

One week after a rather easy sweep of St. Cloud State and a thrilling win over Ohio State in the quarterfinals, No. 2 Wisconsin women’s hockey cruised to a 3-1 victory over No. 1 Minnesota in the WCHA Tournament championship. The victory marked the fourth time in five years the Badgers have won the conference’s Final Faceoff.

Because of the win, Wisconsin (32-4-2) earned the top seed in the NCAA tournament. It will take on Syracuse inside LaBahn Arena at 2 p.m. CT on Saturday, Mar. 16 in the quarterfinals. Wisconsin will be the heavy favorite, as it beat Syracuse by five-plus goals in both match-ups this season.

On Saturday, the Badgers and Buckeyes were locked in a back-and-forth battle reminiscent of the final two games of the regular season. However, unlike the final two home games, UW broke through on Annie Pankowski’s 200th career point with 4:30 left in the game.

The Badgers held on to the 3-2 win, making Pankowski’s 200th a memorable game-winner.

In the championship game, Wisconsin faced a familiar foe in Minnesota (30-5-1). UW cruised through the first half of the game, scoring two goals and outshooting the gophers 17-7. Caitlyn Schneider scored the first goal on a quick, opportunistic wrister that caught Gopher goalie Sydney Scobee off-guard and with a slightly lowered glove.

The second goal was an absolute gem from freshman Britta Curl, who embarrassed Scobee with a snipe from the face-off circle.

Halfway through the game, however, the Gophers got a break on a redirected shot, and it cut the deficit in half. Minnesota then woke up and began flexing its offensive muscles, out-shooting and out-pressuring the Badgers.

Badger goalie Kristen Campbell stood on her head, though, and the Badgers did not allow another goal. When the Gophers pulled Scobee with about two minutes left, Pankowski scored her 201st career point and gave the Badgers a 3-1 win.

Looking ahead at the road to the Frozen Four, should Wisconsin beat the Orange, it will likely face Clarkson in the semifinals—a team that has been Wisconsin’s foil the last few seasons.

However, if Boston College upsets Clarkson in the semifinals, that would be the Badgers’ Frozen Four matchup. As a note, Wisconsin beat BC 1-0 in the 2017 Frozen Four semifinals.

If the Clarkson / BC hurdle can be jumped, there is a good chance a sixth matchup with the No. 2 seed Gophers will be the last obstacle to Wisconsin claiming its fifth national title.