HAMDEN, Conn. -- Three goals in the second period powered Clarkson by the Mercyhurst Lakers 5-1 in the 2014 Women's Frozen Four semifinals on Friday evening at Quinnipiac's High Point Solutions Arena.
The Golden Knights improve to 30-5-5 on the season, extending their most successful season in program history, as they will take on Minnesota on Sunday afternoon in the 2014 Women's Frozen Four national championship game. The Gophers defeated Wisconsin 5-3 earlier Friday afternoon to advance to the final.Clarkson dominated tempo early, keeping the puck in the Mercyhurst zone for much of the first five minutes of play. Pressuring the Lakers' goaltender Amanda Makela with five shots on net in the first few minutes, the Knights were kept scoreless by multiple impressive saves.
The Lakers scored first at the 8:02 mark when Jaclyn Arbour took a pass from Shelby Bram on the doorstep and beat senior goaltender Erica Howe with a wrist shot from point-blank range to give Mercyhurst the first-period lead, but that would be the only blemish for Howe on the evening.
Clarkson would go on the power-play shortly after but struggled to get a shot on net. The Lakers cleared the puck midway through the man-advantage and the Knights were unable to get on the scoreboard.
The Lakers nearly doubled their lead with 7:30 remaining in the period when a wrap-around attempt failed but the puck lingered in the crease before Howe was able to get a glove on it and cover it up. Just under two minutes later, the Lakers would lead another rush that ended in a shot off the left post that ricocheted wide of the net.
Both teams would get chances throughout the remainder of the periods but the goaltenders were up to the challenge and the score remained 1-0 in favor of the Lakers after 20 minutes of play. Clarkson outshot Mercyhurst 14-9 in the period and dominated the face-off circle, winning 9 of 12 draws.
Clarkson would tie the game exactly five minutes into the second period as senior Vanessa Gagnon found sophomore defenseman Renata Fast at the blue line. Fast fired a slap shot on net over the glove of Makela to put the Knights on the board and tie the game at one goal a side. The goal was the second of the season and fourth of her career for Fast.
Clarkson would strike again at the 9:16 mark when Patty Kazmaier Award finalist senior Jamie Lee Rattray battled for the puck behind the Mercyhurst net. After beating a Laker defender and controlling the puck she passed it in front of the net where Gagnon finished with a wrist shot by Makela to give the Knights their first lead of the evening at 2-1. The score was Gagnon's 18th on the season.
"We both went for it," Gagnon said. "Jamie Lee pretty much did all the work. She went in the corner and made sure I got the puck. I saw it at the last second and dove for it and got the goal but a lot of credit goes to Rattray who stuck with the puck in the corner there and got it off in front of the goalie. I just had to finish it."
The Knights would double their lead with 3:36 remaining in the second period as Fast again fired a shot from the blue line and junior Christine Lambert redirected the puck under the glove of Makela to give Clarkson the 3-1 lead. Senior Shelby Nisbet was credited with the assist. The goal is Lambert's eighth on the season.
The Knights would pull away from the Lakers at the 6:39 mark in the third period as Rattray led a beautiful two-on-one break with fellow senior Brittany Styner. Rattray skated up the left side of the ice before finding Styner with a pass across the middle of the ice. Styner collected the puck and beat Makela with a top-shelf wrist shot that gave Clarkson the 4-1 lead. The goal is Styner's 14th on the year, and the assist was Rattray's second on the night and 36th on the year.
An interference penalty on the Knights with just more than two minutes to go, coupled with Mercyhurst pulling Makela from net, left Clarkson on the wrong side of a six-on-four advantage, but the Clarkson defense held strong. The Lakers struggled to get anything going on the offensive end in either of the final two periods as Clarkson dominated play.
With the net left empty and less than 30 seconds to play, Nisbet carried the puck into the Mercyhurst zone and left a pass back for sophomore Shannon MacAulay. MacAulay found the empty net with 13 seconds to play to give Clarkson the decisive 5-1 victory.
Howe recorded 18 saves on the evening to earn her 89th career win between the pipes. Clarkson outshot Mercyhurst 35-19 on the evening.