The Wisconsin Selects used their formula of stingy defense and timely scoring to defeat the Nashville Predators 3-1, avenging the team that knocked them out of the tournament a year ago, and moving one game closer to the National Championship game. Sunday night they will face Little Caesars from Michigan in the Semi-Finals in Philadelphia.
Wisconsin wasted no time in grabbing an early lead, when defenseman Ella Spies lasered a point shot over the blocker of Predators goalie Juliana Rodgers, just over two minutes into the game. The Selects would out shoot the Predators 9-6 for the period. Midway through the period, Wisconsin goalie Chloe Lemke denied Nashville’s Madelyn Maine from between the dots. Rodgers made several big saves including a rebound by Emma-Lyn Stephenson off an Ella Chilson shot with under two minutes to play in the period. The Selects led 1-0 after one period.
Spies nearly had her second of the game early in the second when her end-to-end rush came up just short. Special teams would again be a strength for the Selects as they killed off three consecutive penalties. Sami Federici continued her strong tournament performance taking a pass from Hannah Baumann, dangling the Predators defenseman and snapping a wrist shot under the bar for a shorthanded goal and a 2-0 lead. Wisconsin’s penalty kill remains perfect through the tournament. Shannon Dwyer got a great chance cycling out of the corner after a gritty shift by her linemates Logan Crawford and Kennedy Gruhlke. Lemke made a pair of big saves, one on a play from behind the net and another on Maine again from the high slot. Gruhlke drew a penalty late in the period and Federici answered with another late goal on a great pass from Gab du Vair with just 41 seconds remaining in the second period. The Selects took a 3-0 lead into the third period.
Adversity struck very early in the period when Selects defenseman Emily Bill had to be helped from the ice and did not return to play. At 11:06, Nashville’s Elizabeth Salerno fired a misplayed puck near the left dot over Lemke’s shoulder to cut the lead to 3-1. It was the first goal Lemke has allowed in the tournament. Federici made a bid for her hat trick with about ten minutes remaining, but couldn’t convert a goal mouth opportunity. Predator’s net minder Saige Legault, who played the third period, kept Wisconsin off the board late with a pair of saves on Allison Waara on the backdoor and Stephenson who got open in the slot. Nashville took a time out with 2:28 to play, but couldn’t get their goaltender off until very late. Dru Sabatke blocked a dangerous shot and Chilson lifted a stick late to prevent Predator scoring chances. Final shots on goal for the game favored Wisconsin, 30-21.
Head Coach Emily Bauer was pleased with her team’s overall performance. “Chloe played big for us, our goalies have been great all tournament,” said Bauer. “Special teams stepped up today to help create some momentum and Sami put herself in good spots to have success. All of our lines really flowed well, and our defense showed some grit. It was a great team effort.”
If the Selects move on to the championship game, they will play the winner of East Coast Wizards and the Boston Junior Eagles at 11:30am Monday.