Boston University celebrates after getting an empty net goal to seal the victory. Photo by Craig Cotner.
Boston University celebrates after getting an empty net goal to seal the victory. Photo by Craig Cotner.

Gophers Bounce Out of NCAA Tournament in 6-3 Loss to Terriers

Sioux Falls, SD — During the first period of the Sioux Falls Regional it looked like the script was going according to plan for the Gophers. Jaxon Nelson scored the opening goal on his birthday for the Gophers and linemate Bryce Brodzinski put home the game’s second goal to give Minnesota an early two-goal lead. Then a couple bad bounces went against the Gophers, Boston University took advantage of them and it’s the Terriers advancing to the Frozen Four in St. Paul with a 6-3 win in front of 6,113 fans.

“If we backtrack the game, we make just a couple of critical mistakes against a really talented team and that was it,” said Gophers coach Bob Motzko. “With awfully talented players, sometimes you think that it’s on a goalie and it’s not. The guy that’s scoring the goal or set it up is an NHL player, a big time player, and that’s what happened. Their guys made a couple plays and flipped the game on us.”

Macklin Celebrini didn’t score any goals in the regional final, but the player Motzko was referencing in the post game tallied three assists on the night and consistently drove play for Boston University. The favorite to be the top pick in this summer’s NHL draft was consistently getting to open areas of the ice at the right time, drawing attention to himself, buying a few extra seconds and then delivering the final pass.

Minnesota was able to tie the game midway through the third period on an Aaron Huglen goal, but once the Terriers regained the lead, they packed it in and kept the Gophers from tying the game.

“I give BU credit, they sold out in the third,” said Motzko. “They must have blocked 20 shots in the third period and we poured it on. Brodzy had it on a stick [during a 2-on 1 with Nelson] and then it jumped over. We’ve all seen that for five years… that game was tied right there. It was almost set up to be a classic game.”

Brodzinski said that he thought the pass from Nelson was flat and thought it just snuck under his stick.

“That’s one that I think 99 times out of 100 I’m able to get a hold of,” said Brodzinski. ”It was an unfortunate error at a pretty bad time.”

The loss ends the Gophers season and the careers of Nelson, Brodzinski and Close. When those guys came back for the extra season it was with the hope they’d end it in St. Paul at the Frozen Four. The group has made a significant impact on the program as they’ve made it to regional finals the past four season and twice advanced to Frozen Fours.

“I’m very proud of the things that we accomplished as a team this year and all my years here. I’m just going to take the ride home and enjoy each other’s presence for one last time and go from there,” said Nelson. “My freshman year wasn’t the best for gopher hockey… we didn’t really have that many fans coming to Mariucci… now usually it’s sold out.”

After the game just about every player made their way to Nelson’s locker thanking him for all he’s done for them and the program.

“Jaxon is an unbelievable human being,” said Oliver Moore. “It stands out way more than what he does on the ice. He’s one of the better leaders I’ve ever had. He was just such a good example for me coming in and really took me under his wing.” 

Luke Mittelstadt teared up in the postgame media availability when asked about the contributions of the seniors on this year’s team and what it was like playing with them.

“Those guys… they work, they’re unreal guys. I’m going to miss them like hell,” said Mittelstadt.