By Leah Jenk | March 21, 2019, 5:23 p.m. (ET)
Kelly Pannek looks on during the Women's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round - Group A game against Finland on day two of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on Feb. 11, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.

 

The 2018 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Team featured a roster comprised entirely of student-athletes who had represented nine institutions.

Collegiate hockey is a staple to the success of Team USA. NCAA Women’s Frozen Four action begins Friday, March 22, in Hamden, Connecticut, with the University of Minnesota taking on Cornell University in the first semifinal at 4 p.m. ET.  

What follows is a rematch of last year’s national championship: the University of Wisconsin versus Clarkson University at 7 p.m. ET.

Cornell, coming off an overtime thriller upsetting Northeastern in the quarterfinals, returns to the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four for the fourth time in program history and the first since 2012. In 2012, the Big Red were eliminated by Minnesota, but they look to knock off the number two seed this time around.

They will have to face Olympian Kelly Pannek of the University of Minnesota. Pannek redshirted last season to train with the U.S. Women’s National Team and, after playing in five games at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 and recording two assists, returned to Minnesota with a gold medal. As the university’s career scoring leader, she looks to lead the Gophers back the national championship they won her freshman and sophomore years (2015 and 2016).

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Clarkson, the two-time defending national champion, defeated Boston College in overtime to return to the Women’s Frozen Four. But no team has won three consecutive national championships since the University of Minnesota – Duluth from 2001 to 2003.

Wisconsin enters the Women’s Frozen Four as the top seed and is led by senior Annie Pankowski. Pankowski was a member of the 2017-18 U.S. Women’s National Team and is a finalist for the 2019 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. The Badgers are coached by 1980 U.S. Olympic gold medalist Mark Johnson. 

The winners of each semifinal will face off in the national championship on Sunday, March 24 at 2:30 p.m. ET.

The Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award is presented by USA Hockey to the top player in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey. Clarkson’s Loren Gabel (Kitchener, Ontario) and Boston College’s Megan Keller are also finalists. Keller was a member of the 2018 U.S. Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey team and contributed two assists while playing in the five games.