There was a lot to watch yesterday for fans of Minnesota hockey. The Wild handed the Blues their fourth straight loss and snapped a nine-game winless streak against St. Louis, despite being outshot 45-15. (Read Scott’s recap of that game.) But with the Wild having already punched their ticket to the playoffs, there may have been more eyes on Philadelphia where the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers were taking on North Dakota in the semifinals of the Frozen Four tournament.
It was a tight game all the way through. Both goaltenders looked outstanding and entered the third period with shutouts. It remained that way until, with 9:09 left in the game, the Gophers’ Sam Warning (an undrafted free agent) potted one from Kyle Rau.
That Gopher lead would be short-lived. UND’s Connor Gaarder put one in 32 seconds later from Dillon Simpson and Jordan Schmaltz.
When Gopher forward Connor Reilly took a holding minor at 18:21 of the third period, the game was still tied at 1-1, with UND poised to finish regulation on the power play.
But that power play wound up not mattering, as Gopher goaltender Adam Wilcox stopped four shots on the PK before the Gophers got a break down the boards with just seconds remaining. Kyle Rau tried a last second shot that was blocked by UND’s Jordan Schmaltz. Senior Gopher defenseman Justin Holl found the deflection in his skates with almost nothing left on the clock and let loose a prayer at the net. He hit pay dirt with six-tenths of a second left in the game.
With those last second heroics — along with a great game from Wilcox who stopped 36 of 37 shots — the Gophers are moving on to Saturday’s national championship game against Union College.
For their part Union had a 4-2 lead with 8:07 left in the game. But the #2-ranked Boston College was determined to make a game of it, scoring with 1:45 left in the game and the goaltender pulled to make it 4-3. 34 seconds later Union’s Daniel Ciampini put one in an empty net, finishing off the first hat trick in the Frozen Four since Nathan Gerbe did it in the semifinals for BC in 2008.
But Boston College wasn’t done yet. They showed why they’ve had such a strong season by putting one last one in before the buzzer sounded on a 5-4 Union victory. Saturday will be Union’s first championship appearance in school history.
With Boston College eliminated that means Wild fans won’t be getting another look this season at Wild prospect and Boston College freshman Adam Gilmour, who had an assist and one shot in Thursday’s game.
The other BC player on the mind of Wild fans is Boston College goaltender Thatcher Demko, who was projected by some experts as a possible fit for the Wild in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Demko let in four goals on 36 shots Thursday, for a .900 save percentage.
While the Wild prospects are out of the tournament (Mario Lucia and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were eliminated in the first round by St. Cloud State), Wild fans can cheer on the Gophers at 6:30 CST as they fight for their first national championship since 2003. The game will air on ESPN nationally.