Gophers beat St. Cloud State, advance to Frozen Four

Minnesota last made the Frozen Four in 2012, when it lost to Boston College.

The Gophers men's hockey team beat St. Cloud State 4-0 Sunday evening at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. With the win, Minnesota advanced to the Frozen Four for the second time in three years.

Patty Grover

The Gophers men’s hockey team beat St. Cloud State 4-0 Sunday evening at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. With the win, Minnesota advanced to the Frozen Four for the second time in three years.

Megan Ryan

As far as celebrations go, the Gophers’ after winning the NCAA West Regional wasn’t the most exuberant.

Minnesota players skated leisurely to huddle around goaltender Adam Wilcox. Gloves, helmets and sticks weren’t shed until the memorabilia hats appeared after the handshakes.

That, paired with the fact that Wilcox, freshman forward Justin Kloos and head coach Don Lucia barely cracked a smile in the postgame press conference, makes it clear how the Gophers treated this game — as business.

A trip to the Frozen Four has been expected of this team for much of this season. The real celebration can wait another two weeks — though Lucia did admit “going to the Frozen Four, it never gets old.”

Minnesota thrashed Robert Morris 7-3 on Saturday before beating St. Cloud State 4-0 on Sunday at the Xcel Energy Center.

Minnesota will face North Dakota on April 10 in Philadelphia. Union and Boston College round out the group competing for the national championship.

While fans were already giving a standing ovation with eight minutes left on the clock and some even left early to beat the traffic, the Gophers’ performance this weekend was hardly worth missing.

“I thought it was the two best games since I’ve been here in two years,” Wilcox said.

The Gophers struck first about 11 minutes into the first period with a goal by Kloos, who took over his team’s top-scoring honors. Kloos was joined in the scoring column about four minutes into the second period by junior forward Seth Ambroz.

But Kloos didn’t relinquish the scoring crown so easily. After a SportsCenter-worthy tic-tac-toe play with linemates freshman Taylor Cammarata and senior Nate Condon, Kloos buried the puck into the net for his second goal about six minutes later.

Minnesota was pulling away at that point, but junior forward Kyle Rau added to the haul on the power play about eight minutes into the final period.

Kloos, Condon, sophomore defensemen Brady Skjei and Mike Reilly, and Wilcox made the regional team, with Kloos garnering MVP honors.

On Saturday, the Gophers committed two penalties early in the game to give Robert Morris a 5-on-3 advantage.

Minnesota overcame the potentially dangerous start by scoring three goals in the last four minutes of the first period from Condon, freshman defenseman Michael Brodzinski and Kloos.

The game seemed well in hand when Rau scored about eight minutes into the second period, but Robert Morris was far from giving up.

The Colonials tallied two goals from Cody Wydo and Zac Lynch before the final period.

In the third, the Gophers left no doubt, as freshman forward Hudson Fasching positioned the Gophers for the win with a power-play goal about 14 minutes into the third period.

Robert Morris stole another point back with a goal by David Friedmann before Minnesota put the game away.

Rau said he wasn’t surprised by Robert Morris’ unwillingness to roll over.

“At this time of the year, no one is going to give up because it’s their season on the line,” he said. “We need to take that into account … because we know that no one is just going to fold over for us.”

Condon added his second goal of the game, and Reilly tallied the final blow.

This is Minnesota’s first trip to the Frozen Four since 2012, when it lost to Boston College 6-1 in the semifinals.