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MINNEAPOLIS — There was no four-peat of league playoff championships for the top-ranked University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team.

Nor was there a fifth victory in as many tries against Minnesota this season after the Golden Gophers won the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff championship Sunday with a 3-1 victory over the Badgers at Ridder Arena.

But that’s not all between UW and Minnesota: They’ll play again in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament next weekend, with a spot in the Frozen Four on the line.

Needing a victory to make the NCAA field, Minnesota defeated UW on Sunday for the first time this season after losing four one-goal games to the Badgers.

UW, which ran away with its third straight WCHA regular-season title, couldn’t win a fourth consecutive playoff crown and will go into the national tournament on a loss for the first time since 2014.

Taylor Williamson broke a 1-1 tie 1:40 into the second period, and Minnesota (24-10-3) got 31 saves from tournament Most Outstanding Player Sidney Peters.

“It’s just a matter of if we were going to get enough opportunities to create a goal, which we didn’t,” UW coach Mark Johnson said. “They defended well, and their goaltender played well today, and that’s your typical playoff game: One team capitalized on their opportunities and the other didn’t.”

The Badgers (30-4-2) fell out of the top spot in the PairWise Rankings and later Sunday were handed an NCAA tournament first-round game against the Gophers at 2 p.m. Saturday at LaBahn Arena.

Between the end of Sunday’s game and the selection show hours later, Johnson said he didn’t think his team would draw Minnesota in the first round because the top two overall seeds in the field generally play the bottom two.

By the PairWise, the Badgers were second overall and Minnesota was fifth.

But the NCAA committee has a directive to limit the number of flights taken by first-round visiting teams.

The Badgers could have ended the Gophers’ season on Sunday, but Minnesota showed a sense of desperation by scoring 66 seconds into the game.

Taylor Wente redirected an Emily Brown shot past the blocker of UW’s Kristen Campbell (21 saves) as the goalie was moving to her left.

“I think you could tell they really wanted it, especially at the end of the game,” Badgers center Abby Roque said. “They were really psyched when they won. I think that’s a big factor in how they played hard.

“I think we played really well. I think we had our chances to win. I just think that they came out and they got the opportunities and they put the puck away.”

The Badgers responded later in the first period when freshman Delaney Drake scored her first collegiate goal, pulling the puck into space for a shot at an open part of the net after Natalie Buchbinder’s try from distance was blocked.

The Gophers beat Campbell on a redirection for the second time when Williamson changed the course of Olivia Knowles’ shot.

That stood as the winner because the Badgers couldn’t get another shot past Peters.

“I think she’s a lot of the reason they won this game and won this tournament,” Roque said. “Yesterday, she had a shutout and today she came out and made 31 saves out of 32. It’s hard to score on a good goalie when they’re hot like that, especially when nothing’s going right. I think she’s a big part of how they won.”

Nicole Schammel scored into an empty net with 13.3 seconds remaining to clinch the title for Minnesota.

The Badgers did not have a power-play opportunity for only the second time in 36 games this season. The other was a 4-0 victory over Minnesota State-Mankato on Jan. 14.

Minnesota 1 1 1 — 3

Wisconsin 1 0 0 — 1

First period: M — Wente 11 (Brown, Schammel), 1:06. W — Drake 1 (Buchbinder, Norby), 4:19. Penalty: Cogan, W, 17:58.

Second period: M — Williamson 3 (Knowles), 1:40. Penalties: Rolfes, W, 6:15; Piazza, M, 14:00; Steffen, W, 14:00.

Third period: M — Schammel 17 (Wente, Zumwinkle), 19:46 (en).

Saves: M (Peters 7-14-10) 31; W (Campbell 10-5-6) 21.

Power plays: M 0-for-2; W 0-for-0.

Att. — 1,854.


Todd D. Milewski covers Wisconsin Badgers men's hockey and the UW Athletic Department for the Wisconsin State Journal.