HAMDEN, Conn. — Sam Cogan was so busy celebrating a critical third-period goal for the University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team she didn’t even realize she was the one who scored it.
Her goal fueled a surge in the final 10 minutes that turned a tight NCAA Frozen Four semifinal game against Clarkson on Friday into what looked like a runaway Badgers victory.
A 5-0 triumph over the two-time defending national champions at People’s United Center provided some redemption for a title-game loss to the Golden Knights two years ago and sent the Badgers into the final game of the season.
Up next: The national championship game against archrival Minnesota on Sunday.
Cogan got credit for the goal that put UW ahead 2-0 with 9:08 left in the third period after her centering pass hit the stick of Clarkson goaltender Kassidy Sauve and the left arm of defenseman Ella Shelton before dropping over the goal line.
The Badgers senior thought Annie Pankowski, the intended recipient of the pass in front of the net, had scored. Cogan’s reaction when Pankowski let her know that the goal was hers?
“Wait, me?” Cogan said. “The hockey gods were on my side today.”
Abby Roque broke a second-period deadlock, Pankowski added a pair of goals later in the third period and Presley Norby completed the scoring in the final minute as UW advanced to the championship game for only the second time in a string of six straight Frozen Four appearances.
Badgers coach Mark Johnson moved Cogan up to the top line alongside Emily Clark and Pankowski for Friday’s game, adding their best matchup forward to the grouping that was tasked with holding down college hockey’s best line.
They faced off against the 85-goal trio of Loren Gabel, Michaela Pejzlova and Elizabeth Giguere most of the night, and the Badgers did what no one else had done this season: keep the Golden Knights scoreless.
“Sam stepped up in a huge way,” Pankowski said. “She was awesome tonight.”
UW goaltender Kristen Campbell had a few challenging stops in a 14-save outing that was her 10th shutout of the season. The Badgers largely kept Clarkson’s opportunities to the outside, denied passes through the middle of the ice and were successful with an aggressive forecheck.
“People that play against Clarkson, you have to be able to eliminate, stop, give as few opportunities to that top line as you can,” Johnson said. “And then hopefully your second and third groups can make a contribution. I thought (Cogan) played a very strong game.”
Gabel, Pejzlova and Giguere accounted for 10 of Clarkson’s 14 shots on goal but were a combined minus-8.
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Still, it took the Badgers 21 shots on goal and nearly 30 minutes of game time to finally get the puck past Sauve (35 saves).
UW’s Britta Curl couldn’t hold a puck in the offensive zone but made up for it seconds later by picking a pass from teammate Natalie Buchbinder out of the air at the boards near the blue line. She entered the zone and, from the right circle, fed Roque in the slot for a one-timer with 10:31 left in the second period.
The chances had been there for the Badgers before then, potentially giving them flashbacks to the 2017 national championship game. UW outshot Clarkson 41-20 that day but lost 3-0.
The tally was 40-14 on Friday, but the Badgers’ persistence provided a vastly different result.
“We knew we were getting chances,” Roque said. “We kept the pressure on because we knew they couldn’t get the puck in the zone. We were keeping the pressure on, and that’s what got us the chances to score. Finally, one went in and that’s when the floodgates opened.”
Cogan’s goal for a 2-0 lead came about seven minutes after Gabel rang the crossbar on Clarkson’s fourth power play of the game in the third period. The Badgers (34-4-2) held the Golden Knights (30-8-2) to three shots on goal over the eight minutes of power-play time.
Pankowski scored her 26th and 27th goals of the season five minutes apart in the third period, the first on a rush up the right side and the second into an empty net. She has a national-best 10 goals and 12 points in six postseason games.
So it comes down to UW and Minnesota, the two winningest Frozen Four teams who have each won one national championship against the other: the Badgers in 2006, the Gophers in 2012. Round 3 is Sunday after Minnesota ousted Cornell 2-0 in the early semifinal on Friday.
“We’re really focused on ourselves, and that’s huge for this team,” Pankowski said. “Because as soon as we start to worry about what they’re doing and what they have and what their game plan is, we sort of extend ourselves too far and we overthink it.”
Clarkson 0 0 0 — 0
Wisconsin 0 1 4 — 5
First-period penalties: Keenan, C, 14:41; Steffen, W, 19:27.
Second period: W — Roque 11 (Curl, Buchbinder), 9:29. Penalties: Norby, W, 11:47; Clark, W, 17:18.
Third period: W — Cogan 7 (Gardner, Clark), 10:52; Pankowski 26 (Cogan), 13:37; Pankowski 27 (Cogan), 18:40 (en); Norby 12 (Shaver, Schneider), 19:05. Penalty: Mauermann, W, 3:29.
Saves: C (Sauve 13-9-13) 35; W (Campbell 5-6-3) 14. Power plays: C 0-for-4; W 0-for-1. Att. — 3,241.