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David Boyce | | March 18, 2017

Clarkson knocks off two-time defending champ Minn. in semis

  Clarkson lit the lamp late to seal a championship spot against Wisconsin.

ST. CHARLES, Mo. — Clarkson turned in a special offensive performance to knock off two-time defending champion Minnesota 4-3 Friday evening at the Family Arena.

“It was an exciting game like we thought it was going to be,” said Clarkson coach Matt Desrosiers. “We knew they were going to press and everything. We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game. It definitely wasn’t for us.

“I am really proud of the way the players kept pushing. We get a lead and they cut it down. We just kept coming.”

Clarkson (31-4-5) will take on Wisconsin (33-2-4) at 3 p.m. ET Sunday for the 2017 NCAA women’s ice hockey title.

RELATED: Wisconsin beats Boston College 1-0

This will be the first time in six years Minnesota is not playing the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four championship game. The Gophers won titles in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Clarkson interrupted the Gophers’ run of championships in 2014 with a 5-4 victory in the title game.

This year’s semifinals had the same kind of offensive flair. Clarkson took a 3-2 lead midway through the third period. Minnesota tied the game at 3-3 with five minutes left in the third period.

It appeared the game was heading to overtime. But Clarkson sophomore Rhyen McGill knocked in the winning goal with 1:31 left in the game.

“I saw [Genevieve] Bannon make the great pass over to [Cayley] Mercer, and Merc is a great player so that shot was either going in or there was going to be a rebound close. I went to the net hard and tried to knock it in.”

The first two periods were nearly identical. Clarkson scored first in the opening period on a goal by Bannon, and Minnesota tied the game at 1-1 on a goal by Kate Schipper.

The same thing happened in the second period. The Knights took a 2-1 lead on a goal by Loren Gabel. Minnesota tied the game with a minute left in the second period on a goal by Sarah Potomak.

“I am really proud of our team,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said. “It was a great hockey game. It was not the outcome we wanted. It was some good back-and-forth action all night. Congratulation to Clarkson and best of luck to them and Wisconsin on Sunday.”