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EastDown & Tampa Bound

EastDown & Tampa Bound

Sixty Minute Effort Erases Recent Memory; Sends Gophers to Tampa

Photo by: Craig Cotner Nate Condon finishes off UND with the Gophers 5th goal. “I’ll just start with congratulations to the University of Minnesota.”

I’m certain that comment from UND coach Dave Hakstol was not easy to mutter.

But quite frankly there would be nothing else to say. A sixty minute effort from Goldy and the better team is the one going to Tampa. The team – overall – played their game tonight, Kent Patterson bounced back from a rough game last weekend, and the Gophers punched their ticket to the Sunshine State with a 5 – 2 win over UND and are going to the Frozen Four in two weeks.

The first period was fairly evenly played. The Gophers were the aggressor to start, but after the first five minutes or so, UND gradually built some momentum and had a few scoring chances that Kent Patterson turned aside, his best was a great kick save on a tip by Mark MacMillian.

But Goldy drew first blood. After UND held play in the Gopher zone, Kyle Rau got a hold of the puck and sent a breakout pass up to Zach Budish. Budish carried it through the neutral zone, then sent a pass cross ice to Ben Marshall at the opposite point, who ripped a slap shot over Aaron Dell’s glove hand for the 1 – 0 Gopher lead.

The fireworks flew a bit more as soon as the 2nd period started.

An end of the period power play carried over for the Gophers and they doubled their lead. Erik Haula was left wide open in front of the net. Nick Bjugstad hit him with a crisp pass; Haula got Dell leaning and was able to out-reach him, dumping it into the net.

UND got right back at it with a couple of scoring chances, but it was a fluke that got them on the board. A seemingly harmless dump in took a UND-favorable bounce off of the glass; Danny Kristo corralled the puck, turned around and beat a screened Kent Patterson to cut the Gopher lead in half.

"It was kind of a freaky goal off the plexiglass" said Captain Taylor Matson, postgame. "The biggest thing for us, our next shift's got to be a momentum changer and our team's reslilent."

Photo by: Craig Cotner UND's Danny Kristo goes flying. And it was the Gophers who got the next two to take a 4 – 1 lead into the 2nd intermission.

Nate Schmidt made a great play coming up ice to generate the third Gopher goal. Derek Forbort took an odd angle, perhaps trying to cut Schmidt off. But Schmidt accelerated the other way and raced in on a breakaway from the blue line in. Dell stopped his shot but couldn’t get the rebound. Taylor Matson flew in and out-did three UND players, flipping a backhand over Dell for his 8th of the year.

“We made a mistake to allow it to go 3 – 1 without forcing Minnesota to make a great play, and that really turned the tide against us” said Hakstol of that goal.

About five minutes later, Travis Boyd entered the goal-scoring record books for the Gophers. Finally for him, he tipped home a shot on net by Nate Condon and the Gophers had a similar three goal lead with five minutes to go in the 2nd period that they had recently.

Photo by: Craig Cotner These boys are excited to be heading to the Frozen Four in Tampa! “He’s a great team player and it’s a great confidence booster for him” said Matson, about Boyd’s goal. “We had great chemistry throughout the game and that’s great for our line to get three goals tonight” said Matson, when asked about moving to wing and Boyd being moved up to center.

But when Justin Holl was whistled for a minor penalty just seconds into the third period, you would have thought that the Gopher bench may have seized up. Not so.

“I was pretty relaxed” said Coach Lucia.

Matson credited strength coach Cal Dietz. “We were really pumped up in the locker room (after the second period)” said Matson. “We had our trainer give us a nice little speech” he said, with a wink. “He’s an inspiration to us.”

UND was pressing all third period – they more than doubled their shot total in the third period alone. But the Gophers more than held their own, and Nate Condon essentially iced the game, with just under five minutes to go. UND was pressing all period and the Gophers were getting some odd man rushes. An exhausted set of UND defenseman couldn’t catch up with a charging Nate Condon. Condon used his speed to wheel in all alone and broke the camel’s back with a wrist shot and the Gopher bench was pandemonium.

UND did manage to get another goal, but the Gophers salted it away and punched their ticket to Tampa.

“To get to the Frozen Four is a great accomplishment” said a fired up Erik Haula after the game. “But we’re not done yet”, he said with just a pinch more enthusiasm than two weeks ago after the Anchorage series.

Indeed, sir! So, a McNaughton Cup is down and an opportunity still awaits this team to do something more special. The Gophers will next play the 7PM game against Boston College on Thursday April 5th in National Semifinal #2. That does feel good to type!

Enjoy this, Gopher fans! And BC? Be ready!

Notes: Kyle Rau, Nate Schmidt, and Kent Patterson were named to the All-Tournament Team for the West Region. Kent Patterson won Most Outstanding Player.
Photo by: Craig Cotner A stick salute for the fans!

Written by: Jeff Oftos on Sunday, March 25th, 2012

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