The No. 1 ranked Wisconsin Badgers (35-4-2) took home their fifth-ever NCAA National Championship over the weekend after defeating the No. 2 Minnesota Golden Gophers 2–0 Sunday at the Frozen Four in Hamden, Connecticut. It was a dominant weekend performance from Wisconsin against both No. 4 Clarkson and No. 2 Minnesota, as the team did not allow a goal all weekend.
The Badgers had not won a National Championship since 2011, despite having made it to the Frozen Four every year except the 2012-13 season.
In Saturday’s victory over Clarkson (30-8-2), the Badgers faced a tougher test than the 5–0 scoreline would suggest. The game remained scoreless throughout the first period as both goalkeepers were able to keep a clean sheet. But Wisconsin managed to rattle off eight more shots on target than the Golden Knights.
The scoring drought was finally broken by junior forward Abby Roque nearly ten minutes into the second period. Even after this opening goal, both teams remained neck-and-neck. But Wisconsin created some separation when senior forward Sam Cogan scored the second goal for the Badgers at around the 11-minute mark in the third period.
Following Cogan’s goal, the floodgates opened for the Badgers, as they scored a flurry of goals that blew the game wide open.
During the last nine minutes of competition, senior captain Annie Pankowski managed to score both a full-strength goal and an empty net goal, the latter of which was followed up by a goal from junior forward Presley Norby.
Despite some early struggles against Clarkson, the Badgers brought momentum into Sunday’s championship, which would serve as yet another edition of the border battle against the Minnesota Golden Gophers (32-6-1).
The Badgers opened up scoring against the Gophers as senior forward Sophia Shaver snuck one past Minnesota goalie Alex Gulstene.
While they managed to get out to an early lead in the first period thanks to this goal, the Badgers still faced stiff offensive opposition from Minnesota, who managed to fire an equal number of shots on goal in the first period.
Deadlocked for the next 20 minutes of game time, neither team managed to gain the upper hand. Then, Pankowski put the team on her back — as she has done all season long — with a second-period goal to give the Badgers a 2–0 lead that they would hold on to until the final buzzer.
Few players in program history have performed at such a high level for as long as Pankowski, and there is not a more fitting way to end her historic career than by scoring her team’s final goal en route to its first national title in nearly a decade.
While Pankowski has drawn much of the attention following the victory, junior goalie Kristen Campbell’s achievements in the Frozen Four are first class.
Over the last two games of the season, Campbell managed to keep a clean sheet while facing off against possibly the Badgers’ two toughest opponents of the season. Despite facing a total of 41 shots on goal throughout the Frozen Four, Campbell did not allow a single goal.
The Badgers were always able to produce offensively throughout the season, but it is arguably the clutch performance from Campbell that allowed them to seal the deal and bring the Championship trophy to Madison — where it belongs.