Freshmen Fueled Gophers
Minnesota Rookies Score 3 Times in Loss
by Joe Meloni/Senior Writer
PHILADELPHIA Justin Kloos just went to the net.
It's a pretty basic concept, and it frequently pays a massive reward. As Kloos arrive just in front of Union goaltender Colin Stevens, the puck dropped from his glove. Kloos pounced and slipped it past Stevens to give Minnesota an early 1-0 lead.
Hudson Fasching did the same thing late in the game, this time with the Gophers trailing, 5-3, and desperately seeking to cut the deficit. Again, Stevens made an initial save, but Fasching's presence in front of him quickly resulted in another goal for the Gophers.
Minnesota lost the national championship game Saturday night, failling, 7-4, to Union. But the gifted group of freshman forwards that helped carry the Gophers to Philadelphia provided a spark to the Minnesota offense that kept them in the game despite Union's onslaught.
"The freshmen scored three of the goals tonight," Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. "Just proud of our whole team. Like I said, this is a great year for us. Disappointing. It always is when you lose your final game of the year, but to have the opportunity to play on this stage and get the experience."
Thursday night, Minnesota coach Don Lucia said he saw some nerves from the group, something it rarely showed this season.
Saturday, Kloos, Fasching and the others rookies led the way for Minnesota and kept coming evening as Union started pulling away.
A 2-1 Minnesota lead quickly evaporated when the Dutchmen erupted for three goals in 1:54 to end the first period with a 4-2 lead. Once again, a Gopher freshman got his club going. This time, it was Kloos' linemate Taylor Cammarata making the play.
The rookies leading the way on the scoreboard is nothing new for Minnesota. On the season, the Minnesota freshman were the highest-scoring freshman class in the nation. They entered the Frozen Four with 56 of the 140 tallies for the Gophers this season.
They scored three of Minnesota's four goals on Saturday.
It wasn't enough to get the Gophers that one more win they needed to bring a sixth national championship — first since 2003 — back to Dinkytown. But it wasn't for a lack of effort either.
The Gophers, as always, should return one of the nation's most talented teams next season. The sting of Saturday's national champion loss won't go away for a long time. But this Minnesota freshman class is the type that can lead their team back to the Frozen Four and to a championship as they grow.
"I'm really proud of our group of kids," Lucia said. "I mentioned earlier how much fun it was to coach this team. For the freshmen, you know, it is part of the process that you learn from, hopefully they can take this as we begin next year and take another step forward. A lot of them have had great years for us, and we wouldn't be in the position we were in without them."