BOSTON (AP) – Standing on the side of the Massachusetts Turnpike, the Mercyhurst women’s hockey team never gave up on their bus or their season.

After a rough start, Mercyhurst will try to become the first non-WCHA team to win the national championship Sunday when they face top-seeded Wisconsin, a two-time champion.

“We’ve handled adversity all year,” Mercyhurst coach Michael Sisti said Saturday. “It’s just really rewarding. The one thing that we’ve always done is persevere, and we never gave up on the team or our goals.

“Early on, I think the players deserve a lot of credit. … We started off 3-4, and our backs were against the wall.”

When the wins began to come – the Lakers (31-5-0) have won their last 17 – things began to change.

Even the bus, which broke down on the Massachusetts Turnpike on an October visit to Boston and on each of the first three trips, started running better. Still, the Lakers flew to Boston for the Frozen Four.

Wisconsin (33-2-5) beat Minnesota Duluth on Friday to earn a fourth straight appearance in the title game. The Badgers won in 2006 and ’07, losing to Duluth last year.

Mercyhurst, a CHA team, hung on to beat Minnesota in its first Frozen Four game and hopes to crack the WCHA’s dominance with a win Sunday.

WCHA schools have won the first eight women’s Frozen Fours, with Minnesota-Duluth winning four and Wisconsin and Minnesota two each.

“Were playing the No. 1 team in the country,” Sisti said. “They have all the tradition and all the experience in the event. We have nothing to lose, and I know our players will be prepared and play with great pride and passion.”

Mercyhurst, located in Erie, Pa., has been the talk of the tournament.

And Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson, who won a gold medal with the 1980 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team and knows a thing or two about being an underdog, won’t underestimate the team.

“What they’ve done the last four or five years, everybody knows about them,” he said.

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