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Published April 19, 2024

Episode 41: Men’s hockey falls in Frozen Four

In this week’s episode of “The Weekly Rundown,” our staff discussed the end of the men’s hockey season in the Frozen Four and women’s gymnastics NCAA Championship semifinals results.


ANNA LANDIS: Hello, and welcome back to the Weekly Rundown from the Minnesota Daily, I am your host Anna Landis our Sports Editor with episode 41. Today, I am here with Michael Lyne, our men’s hockey reporter, to discuss the end of the men’s hockey season at the Frozen Four last weekend in Boston, Massachusetts, which Michael was able to travel to and report from live. Hi, Michael.

MICHAEL LYNE: Hi, Anna. Thanks for having me. It was a fun week in Boston, also a long one. 

LANDIS: Right, um, to recap, the men’s hockey team went on a deep postseason run making it to the final weekend of competition at the Frozen Four. How did they do in the regular season leading up to that point?

LYNE: Yeah, the regular season for the Gophers this year was quite the roller coaster. They started in the first half with the record of 10 and eight at the halfway mark at winter break, and when they came back from winter break to finish out the season in the second half, they had a 13 and three record in the second half to finish 23 and 11 on the season before playoffs, including an eight and oh run in February. So February was really nice to them. Overall, the season was just a roller coaster because Jack LaFontaine, their starting goaltender left midseason January, Justen Close had to come in. Never had any experience. He played minimally in games, but he never had started the game in his first three years here up until that point, he’s great for them. And then also the Olympians leave, Matthew Knies, Ben Meyers, Brock Faber. They all left for a little bit there in the second half. And just weren’t really any bad COVID issues this year, which was nice for them. But they did have to deal with injuries, as well.

LANDIS: Right and then kind of the end of the regular season then they fell to Michigan in the Big 10 Championship at home. But after that they were selected in the selection show to continue playing in the postseason in the Worcester Regional. Which opponents did they face there and sort of how did those games play out?

LYNE: So in the Worcester regional, they played Massachusetts first. So the Gophers were the number two seed in the regional in Massachusetts was number three in that first game. They had a comeback win, scoring three unanswered goals to win 4-3 in overtime. So they won that game, and they moved on to play Western Michigan, Worcester Regional Final, and then they also won that game three zero so two great games for them in the Worcester Regional to move on to the Frozen Four, which was their first appearance since 2014.

LANDIS: With their appearance in the Worcester Regional by making it to that point, they did reach a historic milestone. They became the first team in college hockey history to play in 39 NCAA Tournaments following their selection to that point, but once they arrived in Boston, unfortunately, they only played one game that weekend, before being eliminated from the hunt. So how did that game sort of play out? They were facing Minnesota State Mankato, which is a very strong in-state team. And the Gophers actually scored first which may have been surprising for people not what they may have expected against the Mavericks, but how did that game play out?  

LYNE:  Minnesota State started off real quick. They’re actually a quicker team than I thought they were. I knew they were going to be aggressive but they were really coming at the Gophers, making it really hard for them even to get pucks in the offensive zone. The Gophers spent a lot of time in their defensive zone in that first period. But then there was just a mistake near the midway point of that first period. Andy Carroll and Benton Maass had a little miscommunication somewhere along the lines near their own blue line, and junior Bryce Brodzinski picked up the puck to create a two on oh on Dryden McKay. Brodzinski gave it to Knies, Knies gave it back to Brodzinski and Brodzinski gave it back to Knies and he buried it on the open net. 

LANDIS: Yeah. Beautiful goal. 

LYNE: Beautiful goal. McKay didn’t really have any chance at it. I mean, when it’s a two on oh like that, goalie’s left out to dry.

LANDIS: Yeah, not a lot you can do.

LYNE: Hard to save. So, the Gophers took a one zero lead in that first period despite being outshot 11 to four.

LANDIS: Yeah. 

LYNE: And then from there it was downhill.

LANDIS: It sort of was downhill. So in addition to being very aggressive toward the Gophers in terms of maybe defensive wise, Minnesota State was very strong offensively. They forced a lead change in the second two-one game. So what sort of happened in that six minute span in the second where that all kind of broke down?

LYNE: Minnesota State just kept coming, kept coming and then those goals just finally came for them and they were interesting goals. They were two wraparound goals. You don’t see those happen too often – especially alone in games like these.

LANDIS: In one game.

LYNE: So they scored two wraparound goals in the second period, and that really shifted the game in their hands just because Minnesota State was out-playing the Gophers up until that point. They just couldn’t get anything past Close. And Close being a little bit of a smaller goaltender having him to move side to side. That’s how you’re going to beat him. And that’s how they did it with those two wraparound goals.

LANDIS: Right, so then after Close has already sort of taken these two wraparound goals which are really, you know, like you said not really par for the course in one game. Then there were three more unanswered goals in the third. So what happened there?

LYNE: So collectively it was, it was five unanswered goals. 


LYNE: It’s very unfortunate. Third one was bad. Basically, in my mind, I was thinking the Gophers have to score the next goal to be in this game. Otherwise it’s going to get out of hand. And they didn’t get that third goal. Or, they didn’t get the second goal to tie it up.

LANDIS:  Right. They didn’t respond. 

LYNE: They didn’t respond and Minnesota state made it three-one. And that third goal Minnesota State scored was really early on in the third period. Yeah, it was maybe not even two minutes into the third period and it was a deflected goal from the point from the blue line. That’s hard to save as a goalie so Close really didn’t have much of a chance there as well. And then the fourth one was another just unbelievable goal. It was in the slot and David Silye just ripped it past Close into the upper left corner of the net. There’s not much you can do when no one’s going to get in front of that shot. And it’s just clean look from point blank almost.

LANDIS: Yeah. And then they did have at the end of that they had an empty-net goal.

LYNE: Yeah. Just to really cement that 5-1 win. So.

LANDIS: Right. So Minnesota just, you know, looking at the score of five one they were really not active at all offensively like what exactly contributed to that like, was it just purely goaltending from Dryden McKay or what all sort of factored into that?

LYNE: It was a mix, I’d say, of their defense and just offense like the Gophers just were trapped a lot of the tasks they would barely get it out of their own zone and then they would have it in the neutral zone and sometimes they would get it deep but it would come right back out.

LANDIS: Yeah,.

LYNE: Minnesota State would be counting against them right back and it just made it really hard because Minnesota State played so well and the Gophers just couldn’t get any sort of good amounts of zone time. Yeah, just seemed like it was always in the neutral zone or on the Gophers end the ice for a good amount of the game. 

LANDIS: Yeah. And, you know, this now marks the second year in a row that we’ve had our season end at the hands of Minnesota State so it does sort of seem that that is sort of the litmus test for sort of where they have to be and like, what they have to improve to, to be able to compete at that Frozen Four level. Now that the season is over, there has been a lot of movement with some players entering the transfer portal, some players signing contracts and there are still some players who we don’t know if they are moving but they may go to a different school or the NHL. So what is that looking like? 

LYNE: Yeah, transfer portal right now: senior Matt Denman, juniors Jonny Sorenson and Jack Perbix are on the transfer portal, seniors Ben Brinkman and Grant Cruikshank had both entered the transfer portal but they’ve already transferred schools. So Brinkman is going to Notre Dame he’s going to be playing there next fall. And then for Cruikshank, he’s going to St. Cloud State University for his fifth year. And in terms of NHL contracts, senior Blake McLaughlin signed his entry level contract with the Anaheim Ducks. And then junior co-Captain Ben Meyers, an unrestricted free agent is headed to the Colorado Avalanche that was announced Wednesday and he’s joining the best team in the NHL. So good for him that’s a really exciting position to be. He’s actually set to make his debut tonight, which is Saturday, April 16. For the Avalanche. So that’s just, what an exciting year for Ben Meyers.

LANDIS: Yeah. And he’ll be joining former teammate Sampo Ranta, which is pretty exciting, as well as Erik Johnson who played on the Gophers.

LYNE: And then in terms of Gophers players announcing that they’re staying: there are three players that have announced that they are staying for another season with the Gophers and those three players are junior Jackson LaCombe. He’s an All American defenseman. So that’s just a big component for the Gophers to have on the team-


LYNE: Next season. sophomore Brock Faber is also coming back, he’s an Olympian, Defensive Player of the Year; those two defensemen are going to play significant roles for them next year if they want to make a run. And then the last certainly, but not least, is freshman Matthew Knies, who also happens to be an Olympian. So that’s just another huge get for the Gophers, he’s a forward and he’s going to provide a lot of goal-scoring for them. 

LANDIS: And then there are still some players who are undecided as of right now, now that the season’s ended. We still don’t know exactly where they’ll end up, whether they will stay with Minnesota or not. So which players are sort of in that position right now?

LYNE: There are two players, I believe, that are in that position right now. The first one is senior co-captain Sammy Walker. He technically has a COVID year to take so he can stay with the Gophers next year. Don’t know if that’s going to happen because he’s also been drafted to the NHL. Right so he has the opportunity to move on to the next level but he also has opportunity, to stay here another year if he’d like. I don’t know if that’s totally up to him or coach Bob Motzko. I’m sure there’s going to be a conversation there with Sammy, but that’s one that hasn’t really had an announcement yet. I guess and then the second one is junior Ryan Johnson, defenseman for the Gophers. He was also drafted. Just really talented on the back end for the Gophers. And who knows, he could go pro if he wants. But again, haven’t heard any news on his decision yet. 

LANDIS: Yeah. 

LYNE: So it’s kind of a waiting game with them.

LANDIS: Walker, uh, was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning, but who drafted Ryan Johnson?

LYNE: The Buffalo Sabres.  

LANDIS: Okay. So if he was signed he would be able to play in the last few weeks of the regular season, but would be to play in the playoffs because he [would have] signed after the NHL’s Trade Deadline and that is the case, um, for anyone on the Gophers who would be signing now, and that also applies to Ben Meyers. And in addition to covering men’s hockey this winter, you also covered women’s gymnastics for us at the Daily so what was their season like? They had a pretty eventful weekend, this weekend and through the last couple of weeks of their competition as well.

LYNE: Yeah. Overall, I’d say the Gophers gymnastics team had a really, really successful season. There’s a couple up and down moments throughout the year. Obviously there was a couple of meets that they could have won but they didn’t. But overall I’d say it was very successful. They made it all the way to the NCAA championships semifinals, marking the first time that’s ever happened in program history and back to back seasons. And in that semifinal, so there’s two semifinals, session one and session two, the Gophers gymnastics team was in session one, and out of each session the top two teams advance. Unfortunately for the Gophers, they placed third in their semifinals session one. But overall, they placed sixth overall of the eight teams left in the NCAA championships, and that was their highest placing ever in program history. So the Gophers women’s gymnastics team has lots to be proud of this year. Sixth place is still really good. It’s so hard in gymnastics to even make the NCAA tournament. 

LANDIS: Yeah. 

LYNE: So I mean with the highest place in program history. They gotta be pretty proud of that.

LANDIS: Yeah, and you’re right about, like, how close everything is in gymnastics. Like whenever I’ve looked at your stories throughout the season, it’s like by decimal points, of winning and losing. 

LYNE: Yeah, and the NCAA championships took place today, Saturday, April 16, Oklahoma won  the 2022 NCAA Championship after totaling 198.2 points. It’s their fifth national championship in eight years.

LANDIS: Wow. So who did Minnesota face on Thursday? 

LYNE: It was number one, Oklahoma, number four, Utah, number five, Alabama, and we were number eight. 

LANDIS: Okay. 

LYNE: The Gophers gymnastics team was eight. So yeah, just a lot of good competition there and it’s hard to beat top five teams.

LANDIS:  Yeah. 

LYNE: So they competed. They were very close, but obviously fell a little short.

LANDIS:  Yeah. And who stood out in competing on that day? 

LYNE:  Yeah, they had four gymnasts, um, collect All American honors. The first gymnast is fifth year Hannah Willmarth she earned NCAA championships second team All American honors on bars. She had a great bar routine at the semifinals, she scored 9.9 which tied her season high on the year, so for a fifth year to do that in her last meet is pretty special. So that was awesome for Hannah.

LYNE: Moving on is sophomore Mya Hooten, she’s just incredibly talented. 

LANDIS: Yeah. 

LYNE: For the Gophers gymnastics team, they’re lucky that she’s only a sophomore right now,  because she will be fun and very successful moving forward for the gymnastics team. But she earned NCAA championships second team All American honors on vault. She scored a team high 9.9 on vault. And she earned first team All American honors on floor where she scored a team high 9.95.

LANDIS: Her floor routine is, 

LYNE: One of the best in the nation.


LYNE: No doubt about that. So she was just great for them as well. Moving on, another successful day was for fifth-year Ona Loper at the semifinals she earned NCAA championships Second Team honors in the all around after she collected 39.35 points. And then she also got second team All American honors on bars. She scored 9.9 on her bar routine. So for her to go out again, just collect those honors is really special. And then last but certainly not least, is one of the greatest gymnasts to ever come through the University of Minnesota and that’s fifth-year Lexy Ramler. She earned NCAA championships All American First Team honors on the all around and on bars and beam. In the semifinals her all around score was 39.6125, her bar score was a team high at 9.95. And then her beam score was 9.9375. So she had another just, 

LANDIS: Yeah. 

LYNE: I mean Lexy’s Lexy, she’s put up those numbers all year long for them and just always provides really good scores for the Gophers gymnastics team. And she went out on a really special way too. The Gophers in the semifinal close out bars and she anchors the bars team,  which means she goes last of the six.

LANDIS:  Yeah.

LYNE: On the bars team. And she scored that 9.95 last. And at that time before she went they were in last place so they were fourth in session one. That 9.95 brought the Gophers up a spot ahead of Alabama. So they ended up finishing in third, and that helped them get their highest placing in program history. So for one of the greatest gymnasts to ever go through the program and to help them reach that goal or reach that placing is really, really special.

LANDIS: Yeah. And her being a fifth year, her and Ona Loper, they are both,  this is their last year they won’t be returning is that right? 

LYNE:  Yup. This year was both of their COVID years. 

LANDIS: Okay. 

LYNE: Ona was injured her freshman year, but I don’t know if she would be able to get, like, a medical year for that. 


LYNE: I don’t know what their requirements are, if she competed in too many meets before she got injured, but, 

LANDIS: Yeah. 

LYNE: But she was injured at some point her freshman year. 

LANDIS:  Yeah. Or if she, yeah, like a medical redshirt. 

LYNE: Correct. Yeah. 


LYNE: So there’s potential there. I doubt it. But yeah. The Gophers are gonna certainly miss them next season. 

LANDIS: And that’s got to be a good meet for them to end on, personally. With those results.

LYNE:  Oh, for sure, just the highest placing in program history. They both certainly played a big role in getting the Gophers that far for sure.

LANDIS: Now that men’s hockey and women’s gymnastics are finished for the year, in our time left in the semester for publishing at the Daily, you will be covering softball for us. Along with Matthew Kennedy our other softball reporter. For people wanting to keep up with your coverage, what’s your Twitter handle? Cause I would say that’s the best place to keep up with reporters at the Daily. We publish a lot of live tweeting and that’s where we link all of our stories. So what is your Twitter handle Michael?

LYNE: My Twitter handle is going to be @mikeylyne5. So yeah, I’m joining Matt for the softball beat now, I’ve been keeping tabs on the softball team and it should be fun.

LANDIS: Alright. Well, Michael, thank you for being here. And look forward to seeing the rest of your coverage this year.

LYNE: Thank you, Anna. Appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

LANDIS: All right. And that has been episode 41 of the Weekly Rundown from the Minnesota Daily with men’s hockey reporter Michael Lyne. I’m your host Anna Landis. Thank you for listening and stay tuned for our next episode.

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