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March 29, 2014
SAINT PAUL, Minn. (GopherSports.com) - Though cliché, calling No. 1/2 Minnesota's 7-3 victory over Robert Morris a team victory is certainly appropriate. Of the 18 Gopher skaters who played in Saturday's NCAA West Regional game at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., 13 notched at least one point, led by the two-goal effort of captain Nate Condon. Condon's second goal, a shorthanded, empty-netter late in the third period, marked the senior's 100th career point in the Maroon & Gold.
While Minnesota controlled the majority of the game, doubling up Robert Morris in shots on goal (50-25), the Colonials made the Gophers work into the game's final minutes to seal the victory in the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
After a quick flurry from the Gophers in the opening 90 seconds, a pair of Minnesota penalties allowed Robert Morris to settle in and generate scoring chances of its own. It wasn't until the mid-point of the period when Minnesota regained the dominance it showed in the game's earliest moments. Quality shots from Mike Reilly, Justin Kloos and Connor Reilly all tested RMU goalie Dalton Izyk, but none got the Gophers on the scoreboard. Those chances primed the heavily partisan Minnesota crowd for a coast-to-coast rush by Condon, who corralled the puck in the corner over Wilcox's left shoulder and skated out to neutral ice, where he made one move to beat a Robert Morris defender, gained the zone and, at the top of the left circle, reached back and unloaded a big wrister that threaded through Izyk's five-hole, putting Minnesota ahead 1-0 at 16:13.
Just 90 seconds later, Kyle Rau won a draw in the offensive zone back to Ben Marshall at the right point, who fed the puck along the blue line to Michael Brodzinski in the middle of the ice for the slapper through traffic in front of the net. Brodzinski's shot found its way through those bodies and beat Izyk to his right, putting Minnesota up 2-0 at 17:50.
Minnesota continued to press before the first intermission. Taylor Cammarata picked up the puck off a turnover along the right rail in the Robert Morris zone and fired a pass across to Brady Skjei at the left point for a shot. After the initial save, Kloos gathered the rebound and popped it into a waiting net with 17 seconds remaining in the period, putting the Gophers ahead 3-0 as the teams headed to the locker room.
The Gophers picked up in the second period right where they left off in the first, pressing the action and producing more chances than the Colonials though, when RMU did create an opportunity, it was high quality, including a chance for Scott Jacklin alone in the slot and Cody Wydo ringing the post.
Still up three, Minnesota's Sam Warning circled behind the Colonial net and found Justin Holl on the right point. Holl's shot was knocked down by a crowd in front of the net, but Kyle Rau was waiting to scoop up the puck and bury the rebound inside the far post, beyond Izyk's outstretched left pad, putting Minnesota ahead 4-0 at 8:12 of the second.
Robert Morris finally converted one of its scoring chances at 13:48. Zac Lynch picked up a loose puck at the left point, skated down to the high slot and dropped it off for Wydo, who uncorked a nice shot from the bottom of the circle into the upper-left corner over Wilcox's shoulder to get the Colonials on the board.
Lynch and Wydo reversed roles in the final minute of the second. After a strong push by Minnesota, Robert Morris sprung a two-on-one break the other way. Wydo came up the left side and found Lynch to his right. Lynch stepped into a nice shot from just inside the hashmarks and beat Wilcox over his glove to close the gap to 4-2 heading to the third.
The Gophers continued to get the better of play in the third, including nice chances for Rau on a redirected shot, Riley on a wraparound attempt and Tom Serratore from the slot, but Izyk was up to all of those challenges. Minnesota turned those efforts into a key goal with 5:38 to play, when Cammarata's shot from the point hit legs in front of the goal but left the puck sitting in front for Hudson Fasching, who deftly reached out and directed the puck around Izyk, tucking inside the right post to put Minnesota ahead 5-2.
While some teams would have folded at that point, the Colonials quickly answered to jump back into the game. Colin South came down the left side and fired a shot that appeared to stun Wilcox a bit. The rebound trickled across the ice, where David Friedmann gathered it and found the back of the net, sneaking it inside the right post as Wilcox flew across the goal mouth.
Trailing 5-3, Robert Morris had one final opportunity to complete the comeback when it went on the power play with 16:26 to play. Late in the man-advantage, still trailing by two, RMU pulled its goalie. Moments later, Condon took a pass from Seth Ambroz near the center of the rink and fired it into the empty net, putting Minnesota ahead 6-3 with 1:48 to play. Mike Reilly added a seventh goal for Minnesota on a shot from the top of the right circle that found the upper corner at 18:53.
With tonight's victory, Minnesota advances to the championship game of the 2014 NCAA West Regional. The Gophers will play the winner of the St. Cloud State/Notre Dame game tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. CT at Xcel Energy Center. The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.
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