Semifinal Notebook: Minnesota-North Dakota
by Jashvina Shah/Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA Minnesota and North Dakota’s Frozen Four meeting didn’t disappoint. The two teams skated scoreless until Sam Warning scored 10:51 minutes into the third period.
It looked as though the teams would head into overtime, but Minnesota’s Justin Holl scored his first goal of the season with 0.6 seconds left to send the Gophers to the national championship game.
The Last Goal
It seemed like a routine end-of-regulation play. Kyle Rau brought the puck into North Dakota’s zone late in regulation. He passed it to Holl, who took the shot.
“I think most of us were just focusing on killing the penalty and getting overtime,” Holl said. “And it just developed where there were five seconds left, and I figured might as well jump in, and it went in.”
It was the 28th shot Gothberg faced, and the seventh in the last frame.
“They just had a couple of guys come down the right side of the rink,” Gothberg said. “A guy eventually took a shot. It must’ve hit a shin pad or something and then just a quick shot to the net and just got by me.”
At the time, North Dakota was on a power play. The team rifled off five shots with the man advantage before Rau took the puck the other way.
“I don't know if it was just the momentum of that last puck, but I felt our momentum was very hard, very fast, very good pace,” North Dakota’s Stephane Pattyn said. “I think momentum was kind of, I guess you could say, in our hands. A couple of close calls, a couple of good saves by our goalie, and the puck going the other way, just hit a couple of skates, hit a couple of sticks, and it was in the back of our net.
“There's not much more I could say.”
The play happened so quickly, some Gophers weren’t sure if it was a goal or not.
“I looked up and also skated out and did a half celebration, half kind of arms up, what's going on, and then jumping on the pile, trying not to celebrate too much,” Minnesota’s Adam Wilcox said. “And when the ref called it a goal, haven't had a better feeling in my life during that game.”
North Dakota’s Puck Control
North Dakota dominated Minnesota, and were pressing hard in the final minutes of the game. That left Zane Gothberg idle in North Dakota’s zone.
“In a sense it is but at the end of the day it’s my job to stop the puck. I guess I didn’t,” Gothberg said. “I got to take that as part of my responsibility and it’s my job to do that.”
While Justin Holl’s game-winning goal is the most memorable image from the game, North Dakota stifled Minnesota for much of the game. The Gophers managed 28 shots.
“Going into a big game like this, video and preparation is a big part of it,” North Dakota captain Dillon Simpson said. “Our guys had a really good mindset going into the game, and knew what needed to be done. For how hard they worked, both offensively and defensively, like Coach said, we left it all out there, went for the puck and it was a close, hard-fought game.”
Adam Wilcox Builds a Wall
Again, Adam Wilcox propelled the Gophers to victory. He made 36 saves on the night and fended off a North Dakota team that controlled the puck and created some good chances.
“They threw a lot of pressure at us,” Wilcox said. “It was really tough at times. There was a few minutes getting shots off. Seemed like when they were missing, they get the puck right back and shoot. But our defense did an unbelievable job blocking shots [and] boxing out.”
Kyle Rau Contines to Lead Minnesota
Rau made one of the biggest plays for Minnesota all season, assisting on the game-winning goal. This year, Rau is the Gophers’ leading scorer. He notched his 38th and 39th point of the season in the win over North Dakota.
“Kyle makes plays and that was a big faceoff,” Lucia said. “There's nine seconds to go. It's a critical faceoff. You lose the drive. They're going to get a good scoring opportunity. We went up the short side. He started to play. He made the play to Justin and Justin scores.
“But it all started with Kyle winning the faceoff.”
When Rau scores a point, the Gophers are 21-3-4. He has scored a point in every game of this year’s NCAA tournament.
“When Rau gets going, we know he's bringing it every night,” Holl said. “That's a big reason he's one of our captains. He's a great asset to have on our team.”