MINNEAPOLIS- With the help of its second line, Minnesota swept a shorthanded Ohio State team at Ridder Arena to advance to next week's WCHA Final Faceoff. Patty Kazmaier top-ten finalist Dani Cameranesi notched her fourth career hat trick, needing less than 2 periods to score three goals in a 5-0 victory.
"It feels great getting through the first round of the playoffs and being able to put it away is exciting," said Cameranesi, whose team won 5-2 Friday to take the best-of-three series. "We still have a lot of work to do."
The loss ends the Buckeyes' first season under head coach Jenny Potter.
Cameranesi's night also included an assist to finish with six points in two games this weekend. Her linemate Kate Schipper had three points (1G-2A) Saturday in a week where second seed Minnesota (31-3-1, 14-3-1-0 WCHA) was able to practice once for 45 minutes due to several players being sick.
Ohio State (10-25-1, 6-21-1-1 WCHA) dressed 17 players, however, were able to get the better of the Gophers early by creating chances off of turnovers. Minnesota goaltender Amanda Leveille faced the toughest of her 25 saves during the first period and had to work in order to keep Ohio State scoreless.
"She played really, really well," said Minnesota head coach Brad Frost about Leveille, who earned her 9th shutout of the season. We gave up five 2-on-1s which was just ridiculous. We shouldn't be given that up in a weekend, let alone a period. I thought (Leveille) stood tall on all those and really gave us a chance there early."
Ending the period out-shooting OSU 12-11, Cameranesi and Minnesota turned the tide when she got the Gophers on the board. The junior forward tipped a Brook Garzone shot into the net for the only goal of the first period. The goal was her 30th, becoming the third player in college hockey this season to reach the total.
"The difference maker (tonight) was getting a goal in the first period. We struggled with that yesterday and didn't get one until late in the second so they were able to keep themselves in the game," she said. "We came out with a lot of heart and passion today."
She wasn't finished. After Lee Stecklein pinched in from her defensive responsibilities to make it 2-0, Cameranesi scored her 31st goal of the season and drew a penalty. On the ensuing power play she was able to complete the hat trick.
Schipper added her 14th goal of the season with the game in cruise control mode for Minnesota during the third period. Her shot went off Ohio State goaltender Alex LaMere, who finished with 25 saves, and dribbled into the net with 6:31 remaining. Her goal was
"That line with Schipper, Pannek and Dani are really causing problems for other teams," Frost said. "We really have two first lines with Hannah's line and Kelly's line. It's great to see Dani put those in and give us a great boost tonight."
The Gophers will be joined next weekend at Ridder Arena by WCHA regular season champion Wisconsin, North Dakota and Minnesota Duluth, whose road upset of #7 Bemidji State is the lone surprise of the WCHA first round. All four teams needed two games to advance.
Minnesota faces North Dakota in the second semifinal Saturday at 5 p.m. CT. Wisconsin and UMD open the Final Faceoff at 2 p.m. The winner of the conference tournament will receive the WCHA automatic bid for the NCAA Tournament.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate