Tampa, FL – For the first time since 2013-2014, the Gophers are headed to the National Title game.
Despite giving up the first goal of the game and hitting numerous posts throughout the contest, the Minnesota Gophers (29-9-1) persevered, finding their footing through some serious Terrier puck luck to down Boston University (29-11-0) by a 6-2 final score.
Just like they did against St. Cloud in the Fargo Regional Final, Minnesota came out firing in the first period, dominating the game and peppering BU goalie Drew Commesso with quality scoring chances. Commesso, though, kept the Gophers at bay, and when Sam Stevens scored midway through the first, BU found itself holding a 1-0 lead against the run of play.
The Gophers turned the game on the powerplay late in the first. Boston U took several unforced penalties, and Minnesota took advantage. Mike Koster tied the game at 1-1 with a powerplay wrister from the circle at 15:09.
42 seconds later, BU took a faceoff-interference penalty, and eight seconds after that, Rhett Pitlick put home an open-net wrister after a beautiful no-look, between-the-legs pass from Aaron Huglen at the other side of the cage to put the Gophers up 2-1.
It looked like Minnesota went up 3-1 in the final minutes of the first when Logan Cooley scored on a scrum out front, but BU challenged the play and the goal was waived off due to goalie interference.
Despite that, the Gophers went into the locker room with the lead. The next goal felt like it was critical, but it was BU that would cash it in, with a high tip on a powerplay evening the score at 2-2 8:06 into the middle frame.
Minnesota didn’t take any more penalties the rest of the way, but BU went to the penalty box three times in the final two minutes of the second to give Minnesota chances. The Terriers took minor penalties at 17:55, 19:00, and 20:00 to put Minnesota on two separate minute-long 5-on-3 advantages.
The Gophers again thought they’d scored their third goal late in the second, but a trickling puck behind Commesso was gloved by the BU netminder just as it crosssed the line, and there was no conclusive view of the puck over the line so the referees called it no goal, and the two teams entered the second intermission tied 2-2.
“I liked us tonight,” said Bob Motzko, “and there we were… I thought we were playing well, you know, and there we were tied in the third period.”
“We had some unfortunate ones called back, another one’s on the goal line and kinda looked like it was in but it was inconclusive, but our guys stuck with it.”
With the late BU penalties, Minnesota entered the third period with a minute of two-man advantage. They were finally able to get their third goal, a Luke Mittelstadt wrister from the same left circle that Mike Koster scored the first Gopher goal from, to go up 3-2 1:40 into the final frame. Mittelstadt tacked on his second goal of the period on a one-time snapshot from the point less than two minutes later to put Minnesota up 4-2.
Motzko had nothing but praise for Mittelstadt after the game, saying “Luke Mittelstadt’s a heck of a player, great job tonight Luke.”
Motzko’s final assessment of the game: “We got our chances, and we finished this thing.”
Finish they did: the Gophers locked down the game after the two Mittelstadt goals, with Justen Close allowing nothing more the rest of the way, making 29 saves in the victory. Logan Cooley added two empty-net goals in the final three minutes to finish the scoring at 6-2.
The win over BU gives the Gophers the lead in the all-time series against the Terriers. Minnesota is now 13-12-2 all time against Boston University.
Minnesota advances to their 13th NCAA title game and first since 2013-2014, when they came up short against Union. The Gophers will have to wait for the second semifinal between Michigan and Quinnipiac to see who they’ll face. As of this writing, Quinnipiac leads Michigan 4-2 with 2 minutes left in the third.
Tampa felt like a home-game to the #1-seeded Gophers, and Motzko had nothing but praise for the Gopher Hockey fans that were in attendance: “One thing that I was really impressed is, boy the Minnesota people showed up here, what a crowd that we had tonight, just fantastic.” Motzko added, “Nothing would’ve been worse than having them stick around without their team being here, so we’re fired up that we can all stick around for the next couple days.”
The Gophers skate for title #6 on Saturday at 8PM Eastern.