DULUTH – Even before either team had set a skate on the ice, coach Brad Frost described the unpredictability of this decades-old rivalry between Minnesota and Wisconsin.
"I've always said flip a coin when our two teams play against each other," he said during an interview on Thursday. "Great rivalry, two very skilled teams. It's been an interesting rivalry."
In the latest meeting, Wisconsin's Caroline Harvey sent a rising wrist shot past Gophers goalie Skylar Vetter in the last four minutes of overtime, lifting the Badgers to a 3-2 win in the semifinals of the NCAA women's Frozen Four hockey tournament Friday night at Amsoil Arena. It was game that lived up to Frost's pregame billing: heavy offense, dexterous goaltending, sweeping momentum shifts, and a little luck.
"Very entertaining hockey game here tonight," Frost said afterward. "I think. For the fans."
With the victory, the Badgers (28-10-2) advance to the title game against Ohio State on Sunday. The Buckeyes shut out Northeastern 3-0 in the other semifinal.
The Gophers (30-6-3) got an early advantage when senior defenseman Emily Odin banked the puck off the boards and Taylor Heise put the rebound over Wisconsin goalie Cami Kronish's left shoulder just more than three minutes into the first period.
"I was disappointed in our play in the first 10 minutes," Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson said. "I don't know if it was nerves, or being shell-shocked when there was a goal [early] in the game that put us on our heels."
The Badgers regrouped by the second half of the first period and continued through the second, shooting puck after puck at Gophers' goalie Skylar Vetter — shots that went wide, rebounded hard off her pads, or were snatched out of the air by the sophomore who had 35 saves.
Within less than a minute early in the third, Wisconsin scored back-to-back goals to take the lead. Jesse Compher passed to Laila Edwards, who backhanded it past Vetter on her right side. Then Vivian Jungels sent a pass to Sophie Shirley, who sent the puck high to give the Badgers a 2-1 lead.
"Our team knew we were due to score," Harvey said. "We kept pressing on. We were so close for so long. So it was about time, we were going to put one in the net. And then that happened and we were able to get a few quick ones.
"We knew our team had so much fight in us, so much grit, we were going to get the job done today."
The Gophers pulled their goalie and senior Madeline Wethington sent the game into overtime, with 1:11 left in the third, when she tipped in a shot from Heise that was headed wide. Grace Zumwinkle, who was near the crease, couldn't describe what happened.
"I honestly had no clue," she said. "It just kind of happened in the blur of a moment."
After the game, Frost still had on his mind a Zumwinkle goal that was waived off for high-sticking — just before the Badgers scored their two speedy goals.
"It's a game of inches and breaks and it's another reason why I think high sticking the puck should be allowed when you're scoring a goal — and that's another discussion for Naples [Fla.] during the coaches convention," he said.
The game was a classic fast-paced and gritty meetup between teams with a decadeslong rivalry. Historically, one is always ruining the other team's big moment. In 2019, the Gophers last trip to the Frozen Four, Wisconsin won 2-0 in the championship game. In 2012, the last time this tournament was held at Amsoil Arena, the Gophers beat Wisconsin 4-2 to take the national title.
"Super proud of our team, of our group," Frost said. "They left it all on the ice, they played for one another. Unfortunately, it's an occupational hazard that when you get under the lights, one team is going to lose and one team's going to win."