Gophers lose in Final Five

Minnesota received a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Colorado College defender Eamonn McDermott takes down Minnesota forward Nate Condon on Friday, March 22, 2013, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Image by Bridget Bennett

Colorado College defender Eamonn McDermott takes down Minnesota forward Nate Condon on Friday, March 22, 2013, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

by Drew Claussen

The Gophers had their place in the NCAA tournament locked up entering Friday’s WCHA Final Five semifinal matchup with Colorado College.

The Tigers were in a different boat.

“They have nothing to lose,” Gophers senior Seth Helgeson said after Friday’s game. “They need to win out to make the tournament.”

It was evident Friday who needed the win more.

Colorado College defeated the No. 1 Gophers 2-0 and advanced to the WCHA championship game Saturday night.

Wisconsin defeated Colorado College on Saturday to capture the tournament crown and earn an NCAA berth.

While the win meant a lot for Colorado College, the loss meant relatively little for Minnesota (26-8-5), which was locked in as one of four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament.

Both teams seemed content to feel each other out in the first period, and Minnesota needed time to adjust to the smaller sheet of ice at the Xcel Energy Center.

The Tigers attacked early in the second. Rylan Schwartz put Colorado College up 1-0 less than one minute into the game’s middle period. Then 3 1 / 2 minutes later, Charlie Taft doubled the lead.

Despite holding a 26-14 shots advantage after two periods, Minnesota looked lifeless at times throughout the game.

Pucks slid off sticks, passes weren’t completed and shots were blocked. A string of completed passes was rare.

And when the Gophers did cleanly possess the puck, they frequently surrendered it to Colorado College. Taft’s goal happened because Mark Alt  was unable to clear the zone.

Considering the sloppiness of the game, the Gophers managed a decent amount of opportunities.

But they squandered many of them, and Colorado College goaltender Joe Howe stopped the others.

In the second period, down 2-0, Gophers sophomore forward Sam Warning whiffed on a cross-crease pass from junior forward Erik Haula with a wide-open net in front of him.

“It just kind of summed up our night,” head coach Don Lucia said of the play. “We had some looks but just couldn’t get much on it.”

Minnesota was gifted a golden opportunity in the third period when Colorado College’s Joe Marciano was given a five-minute major for a cross check from behind.

The Gophers had one shot on the power play.

“The way we looked on the power play was kind of how some of our guys played tonight,” Lucia said. “They just couldn’t find a rhythm to their game.”

Minnesota went 0-for-3 with the extra man Friday.

“It was embarrassing how bad our power play was tonight,” junior forward Zach Budish said.

Howe continued his impressive playoff run, stopping 35 shots in the shutout.

The Gophers also lost in the semifinals of last year’s Final Five but rebounded with two wins in the NCAA regional to advance to the Frozen Four. “We’ve had a great season so far,” Lucia said. “We put ourselves in a great position.”

Gophers receive No. 2 seed in NCAA tournament

The Gophers will play Yale this coming Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Minnesota received the No. 2 overall seed Sunday and is the No. 1 seed in the West Regional, which will be played at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich.

North Dakota and Niagara will join the Gophers and Yale in Grand Rapids. Minnesota needs two wins to return to the NCAA Frozen Four, where it lost last season.

Minnesota State-Mankato, St. Cloud State, Denver and Wisconsin will join Minnesota and North Dakota as representatives of the WCHA in this year’s tournament.