Northwestern (13-4, 5-1 B1G) took down No. 7 Michigan (14-3, 4-2) Friday night, earning themselves a spot in the conference championship as well as their second win of the season over the Wolverines.
Northwestern got off to a strong start offensively before suffocating Michigan on both ends to close things out in the second half. The Wildcats coasted to a 19-9 victory off of the strength of a 7-0 run that spanned both periods, featuring impressive offense from Selena Lasota, Lauren Gilbert, and Lindsey McKone as well as a defensive effort to match.
The scoring prowess was especially impressive given that Michigan had not allowed more than 14 goals in a game this season until Friday night.
The game started quickly, with Michigan jumping out to a 4-3 lead, thanks to a score from Caitlin Muir, after just ten minutes. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Molly Garrett was the only player wearing maize and blue who scored from that point onwards (except for a garbage-time goal from Muir with less than a minute to go).
Five straight goals, each unassisted, helped the Wildcats take an 8-4 lead. Izzy Scane scored twice, with Gilbert adding a pair of her own and McKone tallying as well for good measure. After a quick pair of scores from Garrett, the onslaught began in earnest.
From the 9:35 mark of the first half until there was 22:38 remaining in the latter frame, Michigan failed to find the back of the net. Over that time, Lasota scored thrice, and even more impressively, McKone garnered three assists and a goal of her own. That score, which capped off the run, marked Scane’s return from a gruesome-looking ankle injury, as she received credit for the assist.
Northwestern cruised the rest of the way. For the tenth straight game, they had an advantage in the draw circle, though Michigan kept their edge to 15-14. More impressively, senior goalkeeper Mallory Weisse stopped 11 of the 20 shots on goal that she faced, marking her fifth straight game (which make up her only five starts of the season) with double-digit saves.
Lasota and Gilbert each had five goals. McKone put up six points with a hat trick of both goals and assists, while Scane wasn’t far behind her with two assists added to a hat trick of her own despite missing significant time with the injury. Garrett added six scores in an impressive, albeit futile, effort for the Wolverines.
The Wildcats have now won nine of their last ten games. They advance to face the only team in that span to hand them a loss, the top-ranked Maryland Terrapins (18-0, 6-0) who dispatched No. 25 Penn State 15-8 in their own semifinal matchup.
Shockingly, this marks the seventh time in the past five years that the Wildcats have faced the Terps while the latter is undefeated (h/t Jack Lido). That includes a tough 17-13 loss against Maryland just a few weeks ago.
Northwestern has plenty to play for. They will be looking for their first victory over the Terps since the latter joined the conference in 2014, and accordingly their first conference title in that span. A win would also potentially allow the Wildcats to leapfrog Syracuse for the fourth seed in the NCAA Tournament, which kicks off next weekend.
You can watch Kelly Amonte Hiller and Northwestern go for a Big Ten Title Sunday at 11 a.m. CST on BTN. In a packed sports weekend, this is one matchup you won’t want to miss.