Minnesota advances to Frozen Four with a win over UND

The win comes just eight days after an epic third-period collapse led to loss to the Sioux.

The Gophers men's hockey team piles onto goalie Kent Patterson after defeating North Dakota 5-2 on Sunday at the Xcel Energy Center.  Minnesota will advance to the Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla.

Mark Vancleave

The Gophers men’s hockey team piles onto goalie Kent Patterson after defeating North Dakota 5-2 on Sunday at the Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota will advance to the Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla.

Dane Mizutani

Minnesota is headed back to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2005 after a 5-2 win over North Dakota on Sunday.

Five different players scored in the game, and goaltender Kent Patterson recorded 24 saves to propel the Gophers to the NCAA West Regional title.

Minnesota earned the opportunity to play UND in the championship after defeating Boston University 7-3 on Saturday in the semifinal of the regional.

This rematch with UND — one week in the making — came just eight days after the Gophers blew a three-goal lead to UND in the semifinal of the WCHA Final Five.

This time around, with a berth to the Frozen Four on the line, the Gophers got the job done.

“Our team plays the best when our back is up against the wall,” senior captain Taylor Matson said. “It seems that when we face adversity, we seem to rise to the challenge and play our best.”

Matson was a key contributor on Minnesota’s third line, which scored three goals Sunday to carry the team.

It got a spark from an unlikely source over the weekend, though.

Travis Boyd was inserted as the center of the line, and Matson shifted over to wing. Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said he made the switch to spark his team’s offense.

“We thought we needed something to jumpstart it. … We knew we needed to get more scoring,” Lucia said. “It was a concern moving a freshman up the middle … [but] I thought he did a great job.”

Ben Marshall gave Minnesota an early lead with a seeing-eye slap shot that found its way past goaltender Aaron Dell.

Zach Budish created the play with a good effort up the left side and found Marshall alone just in front of the blue line.

It was Marshall’s fifth goal of the season and the third goal by a Minnesota defenseman in the regional.

“This time of the year you [can’t just] rely on your key guys — some guys have to step forward and score a big goal,” Lucia said.

Minnesota was clearly the aggressor after Marshall scored, but UND withstood the initial rush and regained its composure.

Considering the magnitude of the rivalry and with a spot to the Frozen Four on the line, it was a relatively clean first period.

However, Carter Rowney took a costly penalty at the end of the period that carried over into the next frame. Erik Haula capitalized on the power play.

Haula settled just to the right of the crease where Nick Bjugstad found him with a pin-point pass just 20 seconds into the second period.

Haula patiently waited for Dell to move and then promptly slid the puck into the back of the net to make it 2-0.

Minnesota gave a goal right back just 83 seconds later when Danny Kristo handled a funny hop off the back board and blistered a wrist shot past Patterson.

“It was kind of a freaky goal off the glass,” Matson said, “but the biggest thing for us was our next shift.”

UND established a little more rhythm following the goal but struggled to get the puck to the net.

The Gophers heavily outshot UND, 12-2, in the second period, but the game still felt close midway through the frame.

That was until senior captain Matson created some separation with his first goal in 17 games. It also proved to be the game-winning goal.

The Gophers controlled the pace the rest of the period and added to its lead five minutes later.

“I think the difference was the second period where they took advantage of some momentum after we [scored to make it] 2-1,” UND head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Had we been able to push that to a 2-2 game … [it] would’ve been much different.”

Boyd scored the first goal of his career on a deflection in front of the net to make it 4-1. His goal gave Minnesota an ominous three-goal lead — the same lead it blew just eight days ago to UND.

That was not the case on Sunday. Patterson wouldn’t let it happen.

“I thought Kent [Patterson] was very good tonight,” Lucia said. “He was spot-on … [and] we needed him to be good.”

The Gophers took a penalty 14 seconds into the third period but killed UND’s power play opportunity with relative ease.

Lucia said killing that penalty was huge for momentum going forward throughout the rest of the game. He added that his bench’s energy was critical to the fight-back mentality Minnesota displayed over the weekend.

UND made a push throughout the frame, but Patterson rose to the occasion, as he has many times this season. He made 24 saves Sunday, including 14 in the third period.

Nate Condon added a goal late in the third period that sealed the Gophers’ berth to the Frozen Four.

Mario Lamoureux tallied a goal immediately after Condon scored, but it was too little, too late, and the game ended at 5-2.

Minnesota’s bench emptied toward Patterson in the crease, and padding littered the ice once the final horn sounded.

The Gophers will now head to the Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla., and will face Boston College in two weeks. The Eagles defeated Minnesota-Duluth on Sunday night.

“It’s a great accomplishment, but as a team we’re not done yet,” Haula said. “We want to keep playing good hockey and go all the way.”