The University of Minnesota completed the four-team field that will be headed to Philadelphia in two weeks for the 2014 NCAA Frozen Four after a dominating 4-0 performance against intra-state rival St. Cloud State University in the West Regional final on Sunday night.
Freshman Justin Kloos was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, netting a pair of goals, including the game winner, to lead Minnesota to the victory.
The Golden Gophers took charge right from the start and never looked back. Kloos got Minnesota on the board first at the 11:09 mark of the opening period, picking up a loose puck before putting it home on a nice wraparound. Senior Nate Condon (COL) and senior defenseman Justin Holl (CHI) drew the assists.
From virtually the start of the game, the Golden Gophers played with more energy and a greater sense of urgency. Having gone to overtime in their semi-final game versus Notre Dame on Saturday night, St. Cloud State clearly looked a step slower, and at times lethargic, throughout much of the game.
The Huskies came out with more jump to start the second period, but it would be only a matter of time before Minnesota took back momentum. Nearly two-and-a-half minutes into the middle stanza, junior Travis Boyd (WSH) had a glorious chance to extend Minnesota’s lead only to have St. Cloud State junior netminder Ryan Faragher make an even better glove save.
But Minnesota persisted, with junior Seth Ambroz (CBJ) extending the Gophers' lead to 2-0 at 3:48 when he put home a rebound standing to the left of Faragher. Boyd and senior defenseman Jake Parenteau drew the assists on the goal.
“I was lucky enough to get a nice bounce there,” Ambroz said describing his goal. “Boyder (Travis Boyd) was working it really well there along the wall and then it came out to Jake at the point. His shot got through and then I was able to just tap it through.”
As the middle stanza progressed, the Golden Gophers’ attack would begin to come in waves. Minnesota’s forwards did an excellent job of getting behind the Huskies defense and creating traffic in front of Faragher.
At the 9:53 mark, with a delayed call coming to St. Cloud State junior Brooks Bertsch, Minnesota extended its lead to 3-0 when Kloos netted his second of the game, finishing a beautiful tic-tac-toe play. Condon drew his second assist of the night and freshman Taylor Cammarata (NYI) also added an assist.
“Cammy (Taylor Cammarata) and Kloos are two great skill guys that work hard and come to play,” Condon said of his linemates and of their chemistry. “I think the thing they did best here was that they showed up and brought the work ethic. They can make some pretty plays, which you could see on the one that Cammy got to Kloos for the tap in. I’m the oldest and the bigger guy of the group. (Laughs) I guess what makes our line work is that I was able to show them the ropes and teach them how to play defense at the beginning of the year, and then I just let them go. Now they’re able to do all of that and still score goals, I’m there to help guide them.”
The Huskies generated their greatest pressure of the game around the 13-minute mark of the period, but failed to capitalize on their opportunities thanks to the Golden Gophers’ excellent job of getting sticks in lanes, moving bodies to the perimeter, and the steady play of sophomore goaltender Adam Wilcox (TBL).
With just over five minutes left to play in the second period, St. Cloud State head coach Bob Motzko pulled Faragher in favor of freshman Charlie Lindgren, who would play the remainder of the game.
The Huskies came out with good jump to start the third period, but would still find difficulty in getting on the scoreboard.
At the 8:07 mark, St. Cloud State freshman Daniel Tedesco was called for slashing, giving the Golden Gophers their second power play of the game. The penalty would eventually seal the Huskies fate when junior Kyle Rau (FLA) scored at the 8:16 mark to give Minnesota a commanding 4-0 lead. Boyd posted his second assist of the game. Sophomore defenseman Mike Reilly (CBJ) drew the other assist.
The Huskies’ frustrations would boil over in the latter stages of the period, but by then the game was out of reach.
With the victory, Minnesota advances to their 21st Frozen Four and first since 2012. The team awaiting them is their former longtime archrival North Dakota, who won the Midwest Regional on Saturday.
“It’s always a game that we look forward to,” sophomore defenseman Brady Skjei (NYR) said about meeting North Dakota in the Frozen Four. “It’s going to be fun to go out there and play them. Both teams will be competing hard and doing whatever it takes to win. We feel that we couldn’t have asked for a better matchup.”
“It’s always fun playing North Dakota and there’s no team that I’d rather play in the Frozen Four than them,” added Condon. “They can bring out the best and worst in us and we can do the same to them. It’s going to be a war but it’s also going to be really exciting, as well.”
North Dakota and Minnesota will meet in the second semi-final game of the Frozen Four on April 10th at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA.
West Regional All-Tournament Team
F: Justin Kloos, University of Minnesota
F: Nate Condon, University of Minnesota
F: Nic Dowd (LAK), St. Cloud State University
D: Brady Skjei, University of Minnesota
D: Mike Reilly, University of Minnesota
G: Adam Wilcox, University of Minnesota
MOP: Justin Kloos, University of Minnesota
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