MADISON, Wis. — Dani Cameranesi’s goal at 9:02 of the third period proved decisive as Minnesota defeated Wisconsin, 3-2, giving the Gophers their second straight WCHA regular-season title and eighth overall.
When asked if it was the biggest goal of her college career, the freshman said, “I’d like to think it is. [I'm] really excited. When it happened, I was kind of in shock.”
Minnesota (29-1-1, 23-1-1-0 WCHA) also got goals from Milica McMillen and Rachael Bona.
Bona added an assist and was the only player for either team with multiple points.
“I’m really proud of the team,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “This WCHA title isn’t easy to win and the kids really paid the price here tonight and deserve it.”
The Badgers (23-4-2, 19-4-2-1 WCHA), who honored their seniors before the game in front of 2,273 fans at LaBahn Arena, countered with tallies by Brittany Ammerman and Blayre Turnbull.
The visitors took their first lead at 2-1 on a power-play blast by McMillen 3:37 into the final frame.
“We did a nice job moving the puck up, working it low, moving it up high, and a good screen,” Frost said. “I think if [goaltender Alex Rigsby] saw it, she probably would have stopped it, but we were just able to get a good screen there.”
As it was, she got most of the puck, but it crawled inside the post and over the goal line.
Turnbull answered before two minutes elapsed. Kelly Jaminski chipped the puck up to her in the defensive zone and Turnbull carried on the attack, eluding the two defenders back to get to the slot and beat Amanda Leveille with a low shot.
“It’s a good response,” Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson said. “She takes it on herself and has a nice rush and creates that energy.
That set the stage for Cameranesi’s heroics.
Defenseman Rachel Ramsey carried across the offensive blue line and hit Cameranesi breaking in on the far side.
“In pregame skate, [we] were all practicing that and we were just doing absolutely awful,” Cameranesi said. “We did like 20 rounds of it and we were so bad. Finally, in the game we did it.”
First, she had to get Ramsey’s attention.
“I think that’s the loudest I’ve ever yelled,” Cameranesi said. “Rachel [Ramsey] was like, ‘I thought that was [Kelly] Terry back there by how loud you were screaming.’”
For the game, Minnesota had a 33-23 edge in shots on goal, but Rigsby held her team in the game throughout.
“When you break down, they’ve got some high-powered forwards,” Johnson said. “If you don’t defend well, you’re going to be looking a little silly at different times. They’re going to hem you in for a little bit, but as long as you don’t break, it’s okay.”
Wisconsin’s best opportunities of the first period came during an extended five-on-three power play. Most of their attempts were either shot or deflected wide or blocked by the defense, but as the first penalty ended, but before Terry could impact the play, Ammerman got a piece of Katy Joseph’s shot from the top of the right circle and it found the net for a 1-0 Badgers’ lead at 8:37.
Minnesota put six shots on goal during two power plays at the other end, but Rigsby stopped them all.
For the period, the Gophers had a 10-3 shot advantage.
“There were four penalties in the first eight or 10 minutes of the first period; I didn’t think there’d be four penalties in the whole game,” Johnson said. “We came out of it 1-0, which was pretty good.”
The Gophers got that back in the second period on a friendly bounce. Bona’s shot was headed wide of the net, but it hit a fallen Katarina Zgraja and skittered behind Rigsby.
“I think this is a very strong-willed team,” Frost said. “Obviously, they’ve had some success over the years and have had to learn how to win and they continue to do a great job of it.”
The game matched the top two ranked teams in the country.
“They play at a really high pace, so if you’re going to compete with them, you have to play fast,” Johnson said. “The three games we’ve played against them, there’s a lot of similarities. The scores are a little bit different, but they’ve found a way.”
Saturday, the series moves to the Kohl Center for a game that reportedly is already sold out. If so, it will be the biggest crowd for an NCAA women’s game.