Vetter’s shutout sends Gophers past UMD into women’s Frozen Four

Last year, Minnesota Duluth spoiled the Gophers' dreams of reaching another Frozen Four. On Saturday, exactly 364 days later, the Gophers returned the favor.

The No. 2 Gophers defeated the Bulldogs 3-0 at Ridder Arena in an NCAA regional final, claiming a berth in next week's Frozen Four in Duluth. Madeline Wethington, Abbey Murphy and Catie Skaja provided the goals, while goaltender Skylar Vetter earned her seventh shutout of the season. The Gophers (30-5-3) will face WCHA rival Wisconsin, a 4-2 victor over Colgate, in an NCAA semifinal Friday at Duluth's Amsoil Arena.

The loss gave the Gophers a 5-0 record against UMD this season and prevented the seventh-ranked Bulldogs (26-10-3) from playing for an NCAA title on home ice. They upset the Gophers 2-1 in last season's NCAA regional final at Ridder.

Wethington skated the length of the ice to score unassisted at 10 minutes, 39 seconds of the second period, giving the Gophers the only goal they would need. Murphy added to the lead at 3:22 of the third, extending her goal streak to nine games, and Wethington set up Skaja for a breakaway score at 10:18 of the third.

Vetter stopped all 30 shots she faced, while UMD's Emma Soderberg stopped 27 of 30.

The Gophers will be seeking their seventh NCAA championship and first since back-to-back crowns in 2015 and 2016. Their six previous titles are tied with Wisconsin for the most in NCAA history.

To advance to the Frozen Four for the 15th time, the Gophers would have to solve Soderberg, one of the top goaltenders in the nation. The WCHA's goalie of the year entered the game with an NCAA-best 12 shutouts this season, including a 2-0 victory in Thursday's tournament opener against Clarkson.

Both Soderberg and Vetter were flawless in a fast, physical first period. Each team got a handful of high-percentage attempts, but none got past the goalies, and solid team defense kept rebounds to a minimum. Vetter's shining moment came on a sprawling save of a wide-open shot by UMD's Kylie Hanley, while Soderberg stopped a few point-blank chances.

The second period started much the same way, until Wethington got the Gophers on the board with a superb individual effort. She collected the puck deep in the Gophers' zone and carried it up the ice, skating past multiple Bulldogs, then beat Soderberg from the top of the left circle.

The Gophers controlled play for much of the period, outshooting UMD 11-7 and racking up 23 shot attempts to the Bulldogs' 13.

Murphy, who entered the regional final with 10 goals in her past 10 games, doubled the lead early in the third period. She charged through the right circle, fighting her way past the UMD defense, then scored a top-shelf goal from a sharp angle.

About seven minutes later, Wethington sent a long pass to Skaja to set up the breakaway, putting the Gophers ahead 3-0.