Women's Hockey

'Four for four': Clark, Pankowski complete career WCHA sweep with win over No. 1 Minnesota

Wisconsin beat Minnesota for the third time in five tries to capture its fifth WCHA tournament title in six years.

Wisconsin beat Minnesota for the third time in five tries to capture its fifth WCHA tournament title in six years.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

MINNEAPOLIS  — “Four for Four.”

With No. 2 Wisconsin (18-4-2 WCHA, 32-4-2) besting No.1 Minnesota (19-4-1, 30-5-1) 3-1 in the WCHA women’s hockey championship game at Ridder Arena, ex-Olympians Annie Pankowksi and Emily Clark won their fourth WCHA Championship, the fourth in five years for the Badgers.

“We got to hug at the end there, and [Clark] goes ‘four for four’ and it just took me a minute to realize that wow, it’s been four for four,” Pankowski said. “It’s been special, especially with the ones we get to win here [at Ridder]. It’s a hard atmosphere to play in and to come away with a trophy is really special.”

The win broke a four-game season split between the two border rivals.

The Badgers started off dominant in the first period, with forward Presley Norby and senior forward Sophie Shaver assisting sophomore Caitlin Schneider for her fourth goal of the season.

“For her to score a goal to start the game, it was huge,” head coach Mark Johnson said. “It just injects us with confidence as the game continues from that point on.”

The game’s next goal came in the second frame, and it was the Badgers getting on the board again. Freshman forward Britta Curl scored on an assist by junior forward Abby Roque with 17 minutes left. 

Midway through the period, senior defender Maddie Rolfes was penalized for interference, and Minnesota’s Grace Zumwinkle capitalized on power play.

“Obviously, when they get a goal like that, it would be easy for us to sit back on our heels,” Curl said. “But I think that our team did a really good job of responding and I think we gave them one heck of a game in the third and I think we pushed back really well.”

With a minute left in the third period, Wisconsin hammered the nail in Minnesota’s coffin. The goal came just after the Gophers had taken out goaltender Sydney Scobee for an extra skater. With the goal open, Pankowski intercepted a pass and swerved past Minnesota defenders to score on an empty net, icing the victory for the Badgers.

“With a team like Minnesota, they like to lay the pressure on,” Pankowski, the game’s most outstanding player, said. “When they get buzzin’, especially late in the game, that desperation is dangerous. So for us, if we can put a puck in like that, it really takes the wind out of their sails and boosts us up a little bit. It felt good to get that final goal.”

Gloves, sticks and helmets were thrown in celebration after the final buzzer sounded. 

“The difference is that you are playing for a trophy today,” Johnson said about the energy of the game. “From a coaching standpoint, you know that they are going to be excited to come in here and you just have to maintain that energy.”

With the win, Wisconsin secured the No. 1 overall seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament and will likely face CHA champion Syracuse in the quarterfinal round March 17. With a win, the Badgers would advance to a nation-leading sixth straight Frozen Four.

“When you get down to eight teams, everything is open,” said Johnson. “We’ll find out in a few hours who we get to play, and then we’ll prepare for that team.”

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