Gophers Drive for Six Ends in 7-4 Loss to Union
Minnesota national runner-up for seventh time
Philadelphia, Penn. – Minnesota is a program that goes into each season looking to raise banners. This year’s team was able to win the inaugural Big Ten regular season title, but came up short in the conference tourney and then again falling 7-4 to Union in the NCAA title game.
The Gopher coaching staff often preaches that their philosophy starts from defending their own goal and extends from there. Saturday night, the team was caught watching, waiting, wishing for their goalie to freeze the puck, but the Dutchmen kept getting sticks on rebounds and capitalizing.
It was an uncharacteristic game from their second team All-American goaltender Adam Wilcox to allow so many rebounds, but it was also an overall poor game defensively for Minnesota. The Gophers were outshot 49-40 on the night, the most shots allowed by Minnesota the entire season. The team also took eight minor penalties throughout the game, slowing the game’s flow and forcing them to kill off seven short-handed situations.
The loss was just the team’s seventh of the season, and was a letdown performance for a team that seemed so focused in their previous three tournament games. The run included easy wins over Robert Morris 7-3 and St. Cloud State 4-0, and then a spectacular finish via a literal last second goal by Justin Holl to defeat North Dakota 2-1.
Overall, this year’s team met or exceeded the expectations placed on them in October. The coaching staff had to replace the early departures by Erik Haula, Nate Schmidt, and Nick Bjugstad. Those departures were felt most on special teams as the staff had to replace practically their entire power play, and it took a long time for the team’s power play to get going. It finally hit stride after the holiday break and was a strength in the loss to Union. The Gophers killed off seven short-handed situations and got a power-play goal in the third period in their fourth opportunity.
Yet the season seems like a missed opportunity to add a national title. They seemed to have a great path to the trophy and their freshman got better and better throughout the season. The Gophers got three goals from their freshman class against Union, as Hudson Fasching, Justin Kloos and Taylor Cammarata got in book. Sam Warning was the other Minnesota goal scorer, but it has been the freshman class who stepped right into major roles. The class scored 59 goals this season, over 40 percent of the team’s goal scoring.
The team will be forced to part ways with seniors Holl, Nate Condon, Jake Parenteau, Tom Serratore, and Michael Shibrowski, who did get to see the net for the 45 seconds against Union. The class has taken the program from the dark depths of near .500 seasons and losing to Alaska-Anchorage in the WCHA playoffs to three consecutive regular season titles, three NCAA tournament berths, and two Frozen Fours.
Also, the team will surely be faced with the drama of early departures. Sophomore Wilcox could face pressure from Tampa Bay to sign, as they’ll risk him pursuing free agency if he plays out the 2014-15 season. Fellow sophomores Mike Reilly and Brady Skjei could be enticed by Columbus and the New York Rangers respectively to sign after two very solid seasons. Both players had impressive showings in the World Junior Championships and could be ready for the challenge of professional competition next season. Juniors Kyle Rau (FLA), Ben Marshall (DET), Travis Boyd (WSH), and Seth Ambroz (COL) also could receive attention from their NHL teams as it has been the norm for coveted NHL draft picks to get an enticement to sign after their junior season rather than risk them pursuing free agency after their senior season.
GOLDEN NUGGETS: It was the 12th national championship appearance for Minnesota, but ended as their seventh runner-up finish. That’s seventh is the most second place finishes in NCAA hockey. The program was tied with Boston College at six before the game, a truly Minnesotan record to hold… Minnesota is tied for fifth with five national titles, behind fourth ranked Wisconsin (6) and North Dakota (7), sorry for the reminder… The Gophers had three players named to the CCM/AHCA All-America team, M. Reilly first team and Wilcox, Rau to the second team. Reilly was the first to earn first team honors since Ryan Stoa in 2009, and the first only the third time Minnesota has had three All-Americans (Brian Bonin, Mike Crowley, Dan Trebil in 1996 and Ken Yackel Sr., Dick Dougherty, John Mayasich in 1954)… The seven goals allowed by the Gophers was the most allowed since they gave up six to Minnesota-Duluth on November 24, 2013 and the last time they allowed seven was January 27, 2007 to North Dakota.
Gophers’ Holl Scores with 0.6 Seconds Left to Propel Minnesota to National Championship Game
Philadelphia, PA – Just another classic moment in the Minnesota-North Dakota rivalry.
Whenever you say Minnesota-North Dakota, you know you're in for something special. These two teams have fought numerous battles over the years, with names like Broten and Wheeler etched in Gopher lore for the miracle-goals they’ve scored to beat North Dakota on a grand stage. Tonight, Minnesota fans will add Justin Holl’s name to that storied list, after his shorthanded goal with 0.6 seconds left in the third period broke a 1-1 tie and vaulted the Minnesota Gophers (28-6-6) over North Dakota and into the National Championship Game.
Outside of the rivalry, the game itself was an exciting one, with both teams trading conservative but relentless hockey for the better part of the first two periods. The goaltenders were the stars of the show, with Adam Wilcox stopping chance after chance from a fired up North Dakota squad, and UND’s Zane Gothberg making all the saves he needed to make to keep it knotted at 0-0.
The two teams exchanged chances throughout the first two periods, but neither Minnesota nor North Dakota could break the deadlock through the first fifty minutes. The game’s first goal was scored with only 9:09 remaining in the third period, as Sam Warning scored his 13th of the season from Kyle Rau to give the Gophers a 1-0 lead. Rau skated the puck around the net before trying to stuff a wrap-around attempt home. The puck slid off his stick, but Warning was right there to backhand it home.
Minnesota’s lead was short-lived, though, as North Dakota’s Connor Gaarder scored just 32 seconds later on his own rebound, knocked out of the air, off Wilcox’s side and into the net.
From that moment on, the game was an intense fight to the finish. North Dakota had the better of the play late in the third, and were rewarded with a late powerplay (their second of the game and only the third penalty called on either team throughout the contest) when Mike Reilly held a hard-charging Drake Caggiula up the right wing boards with 1:39 left to go in the third.
Minnesota was able to kill off the penalty until the 9 second mark, when there was a faceoff in their own zone. Kyle Rau, who had been stellar in the faceoff circle all game long, won a clutch defensive zone draw, and the rest is history:
Justin Holl, who had played an absolutely stellar game, found the puck and led the rush up the ice. Holl fed Rau, who fired it at the net with time winding down. The puck bounced off a UND defender and right to Holl, who deftly kicked it to his stick and threw a perfectly-placed shot at the net. The puck hit the inside of the far pipe before settling into the back of the net with 0.6 seconds remaining on the clock to give the Gophers the 2-1 victory! The players rushed the ice and piled on Holl, who picked a perfect time to score his first goal of the season.
Minnesota will face a Union team that beat Boston College 5-4 this afternoon to punch their ticket to the title game. Union is an older team that can beat you with defense and stout goaltending or high-powered offense. The Dutchmen bring the #2 ranked offense into the national championship game, along with the #4 ranked defense. Minnesota, on the other hand, is #6 in total offense and #2 in total defense. The teams are similarly ranked on the powerplay and penalty kill, and both squads like to play a clean game – Minnesota was the fifth-least penalized team in the country this year, while Union was T-36th in the country in penalties per game. All in all it should be a great game between two of the country’s best teams from start to finish. The puck drops at 6:30 PM Central Time, and you can find the game on ESPN for TV and 1500ESPN Radio.
Final SOG: UND 37, MN 28
Kyle Rau assisted on both of the Gopher goals tonight. The Junior captain now has 25 assists on the year to go along with his 14 goals. Rau also tallied a team-high 5 shots on goal on the evening.
No official three stars were released, but I would select: 3) Kyle Rau, 2) Adam Wilcox, 1) Justin Holl
Minnesota advances to its first NCAA Title Game since 2003, and this is the first NCAA Title Game ever for Union.
The Gophers are 2-1-0 all-time against the Dutchmen. Their last meeting was on 12/31/2010, when Union beat Minnesota 3-2 in OT in the first game of the Mariucci Classic.
Minnesota will be skating for its sixth NCAA Title. The Gophers last appeared in the championship game in 2003, beating New Hampshire to claim the title.
Gophers Beat Huskies 4-0 WHOOOOO
Minnesota Face North Dakota in Frozen Four
Saint Paul, Minn. – The Gophers hit a pothole last week in the Big Ten Tournament losing to Ohio State, but their ‘Fab Five’ seniors made sure they booked a spot in the Frozen Four with a 7-3 win over Robert Morris and a dominating 4-0 win over St. Cloud State in the West Regional.
“The focus this weekend was tremendous,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “On the bench, I don’t know if I’ve seen it this focused and communicated and dialed in as we were for the game tonight. Again, that is a credit to our captains and right on down. It was obvious that it was very, very important for us to play well this weekend.”
The Gophers came out with a purpose against the Huskies, working the puck deep into the offensive zone and winning the races to keep it there.
“We knew they played four periods last night, they went deep into overtime, so we knew they’d be tired,” said Travis Boyd. “We wanted to make sure we made their D go back and get pucks all night, try and wear them down. I think we did a really good job of that, and by the time the second and third period rolled around we were really taking it to their D.”
Minnesota executed one of their most perfect games of the season. The centers were sharp in the circle winning 67% of all face-offs, the team only took one penalty during the game, the team got on the board first, and their goalie, Adam Wilcox, earned his fourth shutout of the season making 24 saves. Wilcox was named to the all-regional team and played a better game Saturday than Friday after working on his rebound control.
“The way [Wilcox] looked—I’m no goalie expert—but sometimes they look locked and loaded,” said Lucia. “And that’s how he looked tonight. He looked right on and he was really sharp tonight.”
The team also showed off their balanced scoring. Minnesota has nine players with over 20 points this season, and they got points from nine different players during their win over St. Cloud State. Justin Kloos led the way scoring two goals and was named the regional’s most outstanding player.
Kloos first goal came as he gathered the puck on the right side of the crease, and whipped behind the net to the other side for a wrap-around attempt. Ryan Faragher pushed across, but wasn’t quick enough, and the puck deflected in the net off of his pads at 11:09. The goal was Kloos’ 14th of the season with assists to Nate Condon and Justin Holl.
While the Condon-Kloos-Taylor Cammarata line got the first goal, the Tom Serratore-Boyd-Seth Ambroz line was tasked with shutting down the Huskies’ duo of Jonny Brodzinski and Kalle Kossila. The Gopher third line did as much, holding them to just three shots, but they also got Minnesota their second goal early in the second.
Boyd started the play by maintaining possession of the puck in a battle along the left wing wall, and he worked the puck over to the Parenteau on the right point for a quick one-timer. Faragher made the initial save, but spilled the rebound to Ambroz who cleaned it up for his 14th goal of the season at 3:48.
“That was the best that line has played in a while,” said Lucia. “They had an important match-up with Kossila, Brodzinksi, and then they moved [Joey] Benik up there after the first period—so really three pretty good offensive players.”
The Gophers then scored the prettiest goal of the NCAA tournament at 9:53 of the second period, and seemed to put a damper on the Huskies’ spirit. Cammarata came down the right wing in transition and dished it to Nate Condon. As the entire Huskie defense turned to Condon, the senior gave it back to Cammarata, who then sent it back door to Kloos for his team leading 15th goal of the season, making it 3-0.
“They’re a high-powered team. They skate really well and made it difficult on our d-men all night. They got the puck deep and finished their checks and just kind of wore us down a little bit,” said St. Cloud St. captain Kevin Gravel. “They have skill where if they get a chance they can make a play and they did that a few times tonight.”
The Gophers capped off the scoring when one of their captain’s, Kyle Rau, found an empty spot to put back a rebound off a Mike Reilly power play point shot. It was Rau’s 14th goal of the season, and his seventh power play goal.
Minnesota advance to face North Dakota on April 10 in Philadelphia in one semi-final at 8:30 ET, while Boston College takes on Union in the other semi-final at 5 pm ET. The NCAA championship game is scheduled for 7:30 ET on April 12.
“It’s really rewarding especially for the juniors and seniors here,” said Boyd. “We went there two years ago, it definitely wasn’t what we wanted down there—getting kind of embarrassed against BC, so we’re definitely excited to get another shot.”
GOLDEN NUGGETS: @Cjzero has a great GIF of the second Kloos goal, one of the best I’ve seen this season… Faragher was pulled after playing nearly 35 minutes. The junior goalie was phenomenal against Notre Dame, but has been battling an illness this week. Charlie Lindgren came into the game, and gave up the goal to Rau in the third--must have felt like he was back in net for Lakeville against Eden Prairie… St. Cloud State Bob Motzko said it’s tough to brag after a game like Saturday’s, but he’s proud of the accomplishments of his program, with three consecutive regional finals and two conference titles. He is especially proud that guys like Gravel, and Nic Dowd passed up opportunities to play pro hockey and finished their eligibility with the Huskies. Dowd and Gravel will likely head to Manchester to play for the LA Kings AHL affiliate... Motzko was critical of the NCAA policy forcing the losing teams to face the press first just 10 minutes after their season ends. Motzko told Gravel and Dowd they didn’t have to face the media, but the players still came for questions.
Gophers Survive, Advance Versus Robert Morris
Condon's Two Goals Pace Gophers Over Colonials
Minneapolis – “This time of year, nobody’s going to give up.”
Kyle Rau’s words rung true tonight, as Minnesota had to fight hard to beat a pesky Robert Morris squad. Although Minnesota won 7-3, the game was much closer than the score indicated, with Robert Morris coming back from a 4-goal deficit in the second period to close within two and make the game very interesting into the third period.
Minnesota came out like a house of fire, registering a 5-1 shot advantage just 90 seconds into the game. However, a couple of early penalties would give Robert Morris a two-man advantage early in the first. The Gophers’ penalty kill stood strong, and they were able to kill off the man advantage.
The game settled in at 0-0 for much of the first, with the Gophers looking slow and generally not moving their feet. Nate Condon changed that with a dynamic end-to-end rush up the ice with just under four minutes to play in the opening frame. Condon beat a pair of RMU defenders before shooting the puck from the top of the left circle into the lower corner of the net, relieving the tension and giving the Gophers a 1-0 lead.
“I believe momentum is a big thing in hockey,” said Condon after the game, and it certainly was for the Gophers late in the first. Minnesota would add two more goals late in the first – goals from Brodzinski at the point and Kloos in front of the net – to go into the locker room up 3-0 after one.
Minnesota’s Rau would score in the second to give the Gophers a 4-0 lead, but Robert Morris never gave up. Goals by Cody Wydo and Zac Lynch before the end of the second drew the Colonials within two.
Much of the third period was played at that 4-2 score, and Robert Morris certainly had their chances to draw within one goal of the #1 overall seed, but Hudson Fasching scored at 14:22 of the 3rd to get the Gophers a three goal lead at 5-2. Still, though, Robert Morris wouldn’t fold, scoring their own goal just 25 seconds later to get back to two-down at 5-3.
Minnesota would add a shorthanded empty netter from Nate Condon and a seeing-eye goal from Mike Reilly as time expired to give the Gophers a 7-3 victory.
“We had the type of game we needed to have tonight,” said Gopher coach Don Lucia. “We were led by our captains; both Nate [Condon] and Kyle [Rau] had outstanding games tonight.”
The win means that Minnesota will play the winner of tonight’s contest between Notre Dame and St. Cloud State for the right to advance to the Frozen Four. That puck will drop at 6:30.
Buckeyes Beat Sloppy Gophers 3-1
Dzingel's 3rd Period Winner the Difference for Ohio State
St. Paul – One team had something to play for, the other didn’t.
That’s how much of tonight’s B1G Semifinal matchup felt between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Minnesota showed flashes of their typical game, but the Buckeyes prevailed to advance to the B1G Championship game thanks to a Ryan Dzingel 3rd period game winner.
The two teams played a fairly even first period, with the Gophers garnering the majority of the scoring chances. Sam Warning hit the post on a Gopher powerplay about halfway through the period, but it was Ohio State that would take the first lead of the game. Ohio State took advantage of their lone full powerplay in the opening frame, as Nick Schilkey found the back of the net on a backdoor play at 15:20. Although the Gophers led the shots 12-8 after the first, the Buckeyes led 1-0 on the scoreboard, and Minnesota was lucky it wasn’t 2-0, as the puck took a funny bounce off the endboards and caromed off of Wilcox’s arm and through his legs. The clock wound down just before Ohio State could coax the puck across the line.
The Gophers would tie the game early in the second period on a powerplay of their own. Kyle Rau tapped in a Taylor Cammarata pass into a wide-open net on the backdoor at 4:47 of the period to knot the game at 1-1. Travis Boyd earned the first assist on the Rau goal. Minnesota took a few more penalties in the middle of the period, but the penalty kill held firm, and the Gophers picked up the pace as the period wore on. Minnesota had a few quality chances in the tail end of the period, but the second would end at that same 1-1 score.
Minnesota and Ohio State played a tight third period; Ohio State with its season on the line, Minnesota wanting to tune up for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Ohio State’s desire trumped Minnesota’s will, with the Buckeyes’ Ryan Dzingel scoring the game winning goal at 9:08 of the third period. The Buckeyes would add an empty netter with less than a minute left to seal the win.
Ohio State advances to the B1G Championship Game tomorrow night against the Wisconsin Badgers, with both teams playing for something – the Buckeyes for a chance to extend their season and make the NCAA Tournament, the Badgers for a likely #1 seed in the NCAAs. The puck drops Saturday at 7:00.
The Gophers next game will be at the Xcel Energy Center next Saturday, as the Gophers will be the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and will play as the #1 seed in the West Regional. They will have to wait until this Sunday's selection show to find out who they'll face off against.
Notes & Quotes:
Final Shots on Goal: 31-25 Minnesota
Specialty Teams: Minnesota 1 for 3, 3 shots total. Ohio State 1-5, 6 shots total.
Kyle Rau: “Ohio State outplayed us.”
Travis Boyd: “This is the last two years that we kind of laid an egg on a Friday. We had good chances to win the game in the third, but we need to play that way for all three periods.”
Don Lucia: “I told the guys in the locker room that this is our last chance at a learning experience.” On playoff hockey: “You have to deliver pucks to the net when you get opportunities. You don’t get a lot of opportunities this time of year. I thought there were a few times when some of our freshmen didn’t quite understand that, but we’ll go back and look at the video and have a good week of practice.”
Ohio State Coach Steve Rohlik, on winning three games in three nights: “I told my guys that it’s doable. I’ve seen it happen before [as UMD’s Assistant Coach when they won the Final Five in 2009].”
Ohio State forward Ryan Dzingel, on the NCAA Tournament: “It’s in the back of my mind obviously, but we’re trying to take it one game at a time and play our game.”