Familiar combination of Brandt and Menefee pushes Minnesota info D-I women’s final

MINNEAPOLIS — Juniors Hannah Brandt and Maryanne Menefee have shared the top line at Minnesota for three years.

When the national semifinal wasn’t going well for their team and Wisconsin grabbed a second-period lead Friday night, they turned things to their favor like they have so many times.

Each scored a goal and assisted on two others, as the Gophers flipped their one-goal disadvantage to a 3-1 lead by the second intermission.

Menefee said, “We just kept talking on the bench, ‘We’ve got to get our team going. Let’s get this shift.’ We had a few good shifts, and then we finally got that goal.”

That goal came off of Brandt’s stick eight minutes after Annie Pankowski had snapped in a shot off of a faceoff to give the Badgers an advantage.

Menefee started the play that may not have been a thing of beauty, but was just as effective.

“I was first trying to pass it to Dani [Cameranesi], that was my intention,” Menefee said. “It kind of just hit off her pad. Dani then whacked at it. Hannah said she just kind of kicked it to herself, and then it ended up on Hannah’s stick and she put it in, which was awesome.”

Her assist gave Cameranesi her 100th point in a Minnesota uniform.

“She’s probably our most consistent player, night in and night out,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “Putting her, Hannah and Maryanne together has been huge for us all year, including tonight. She blocked shots, she works her butt off on both ends of the rink. She’s tenacious on the puck and is everything you want in a hockey player.”

But in the semifinal, the bulk of the scoring load fell to her linemates, and the Gophers kept the surge going a couple of minutes later.

This time, it was Menefee’s turn.

“I’m really happy, because I know I hit the post in the first period,” she said.

At 10:52 of the second period, Menefee was moving through the slot as defenseman Megan Wolfe advanced the puck from the center point.

“I know Megan has been working on shooting it from the ‘D’ and she’s been doing a really good job,” Menefee said. “I talk to her because we connect a lot, but something like that, [I’m] just trying to get it on net, and that’s what happened today.”

There were a few anxious moments when the officials headed over to the scorer’s table for a review of the play.

“I definitely didn’t think I high-sticked it,” Menefee said. “I was a little nervous when they reviewed it because we’ve had that a lot this year, more than usual.”

The goal stood for a 2-1 Minnesota lead, and they added some insurance on the power play six minutes later.

“Hannah was curling up, and I was just telling her to shoot it,” Menefee said. “I think it hit my leg, and then I tried to stuff it in. But then [freshman] Kelly [Pannek] had it, wide open, and she put it in the net.”

Minnesota advances to its fourth straight title game and the two juniors have been a part of the last three.

“Just being here for the third time, I think it helps us a lot,” Menefee said. “I think we had a little nerves especially in the first period, but after getting that goal, it was like we knew why we were here. It definitely gave us a lot of momentum.”

And when the puck went in the net, the crowd of 3,400 mostly partisan fans made their presence known.

“It just helps bring so much energy to the team and helps boost us up,” Menfee said. “It’s just a great feeling.”

Now, the Gophers just need one more 60-minute effort to return to the top.

“Having that taste from losing last year, it’s never something that sits well,” Menefee said. “I’m just really excited to get back to the national-championship game and to hopefully get the outcome we want this year. I’m super excited to play; can’t wait.”

After playing their biggest rival, the Gophers turn their attention to an unfamiliar opponent from the East, Harvard in this case.

“It’s fun to play those teams since we don’t get to do it too often,” Brandt said. “It would be nice to play them more during the regular season but we don’t get that opportunity. Either way, it’ll be really exciting. I think they play a fast game and it’s pretty similar to what we do here.”

What Brandt and Menefee mostly do here is win, even in March.

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