Gophers Punch Ticket to Frozen Four
March 30, 2014
SAINT PAUL, Minn. (GopherSports.com) - Justin Kloos scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner, and Hobey Baker Award finalist Adam Wilcox continued his great season in net with a 24-save shutout as No. 1/2 Minnesota defeated No. 8 St. Cloud State 4-0 in the 2014 NCAA West Regional final at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Sunday night, sealing the Golden Gophers 21st trip to the NCAA Frozen Four.
Kloos, who finished the weekend with three goals in two games, was named the West Regional Most Outstanding Player by the media following the game.
While the win most importantly continued Minnesota's season, it was also a milestone for both Wilcox and head coach Don Lucia. For the netminder, it was his 50th career win, tying him for eighth all-time in Minnesota men's hockey history. For the coach, it was his 650th career win, 10th all-time in NCAA history. The win also improved Minnesota's all-time record in NCAA tournament games played at Xcel Energy Center to 6-0.
Minnesota commanded play in the first period, not allowing the Huskies a shot on goal until nearly eight minutes into the game. Just past the period's halfway point, the Maroon & Gold converted its advantage in play into an advantage on the scoreboard. Justin Holl fired a shot from the right point that Nate Condon deflected in front. With Husky goaltender Ryan Faragher above the crease attempting to cut down Holl's shooting angle, the puck trickled off to the right side of the net to Justin Kloos, who wrapped around the back of the net and shot from a tough angle. It appeared the puck deflected off a Husky's skate to find its way into the vacant net, putting Minnesota ahead 1-0 at 11:09 of the first.
After struggling offensively in the opening period, St. Cloud State produced more scoring opportunities in the second. Kalle Kossila and Nic Dowd had separate clean looks from the slot, but Wilcox was up to every challenge the Huskies presented. As St. Cloud State pressed to get on the board, Minnesota produced both goals in the middle frame.
The first was a product of hard work by Travis Boyd, who kept a play alive for Minnesota in the left corner before curling back toward the blue line and firing a diagonal pass to Jake Parenteau on the right point. Parenteau's shot created a scramble in front of the net, in which Seth Ambroz found the puck and tucked it around Faragher and inside the left post at 3:48 to put Minnesota ahead 2-0.
The game's highlight moment came from Minnesota's second line, which stole the show throughout the evening. Breaking out of the Minnesota end, Condon took the puck in the neutral zone and pressed it ahead to Cammarata, who was charging down the right side. Cammarata showed patience and waited for the trailing Condon, getting him the puck in the high slot. Condon quickly returned the puck to Cammarata, who tapped a pass across the front of the goal to Kloos for a one-timer into the empty net at 9:53. That goal, Kloos' second of the game and 15th of the year, gave him the team lead on the season.
Wilcox remained strong in the Gopher net during the third period, turning away early chances from the Huskies. Minnesota went on the power play at 8:07 and put an exclamation point on the victory. Off the draw to start the power play, Boyd got the puck along the left rail and passed back to Mike Reilly on the left point for a one-time slapshot. Charlie Lindgren - who had replaced Faragher late in the second period - kicked away Reilly's attempt with his left skate, but Kyle Rau was waiting in front and drove the rebound inside the right post at 8:16 to put Minnesota up 4-0.
Minnesota was well-represented on the All-Tournament team for the West Regional. In addition to Kloos, Condon, Reilly, Wilcox and Brady Skjei were all voted among the tournament's best.
With its ticket punched to the Frozen Four, Minnesota will find a familiar foe waiting in the national semifinals - former WCHA rival North Dakota. The Gophers will take on UND on Thursday, April 10 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Game time is 7:30 p.m. CT.
-Pride on Ice-