Minnesota, St. Cloud State to meet in NCAA West Regional final

By DJ Powers

Steven Summerhays - Notre Dame

Photo: St. Cloud State University forward Nic Dowd’s shot in overtime sails over the glove of Notre Dame goaltender Steven Summerhays and into the net, giving the Huskies the 4-3 OT win in a NCAA West Regional semifinal contest (courtesy of Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The University of Minnesota and St. Cloud State University will meet for the right to advance to the Frozen Four after winning their respective NCAA West Regional semi-final games.

In the early semi-final, top-seeded Minnesota defeated fourth-seeded Robert Morris University, 7-3. The Colonials, making their first NCAA Tournament appearance, put up quite a fight before falling to the Golden Gophers.

Senior Nate Condon (COL) led Minnesota with two goals in the victory. Sophomore defensemen Mike Reilly (CBJ) and freshman Michael Brodzinski (SJS) both added a goal and an assist for the Golden Gophers.

Minnesota got out to a 4-0 lead midway through the second period, but Robert Morris wasn’t about to go quietly. The Colonials’ top line of juniors Cody Wydo and Scott Jacklin and sophomore Zac Lynch struck for two goals in the latter half of the second period to cut the Golden Gophers lead to 4-2.

In a span of 25 seconds in the third period, the teams exchanged goals. Freshman Hudson Fasching (BUF) tallied a power play goal for Minnesota at the 14:22 mark before sophomore David Friedmann answered for Robert Morris at 14:47. The Colonials threw everything they had at the Golden Gophers net, but failed to get any closer. Condon’s empty-netter at 18:12 and Reilly’s shorthanded tally at 18:53 sealed RMU's fate and vaulted Minnesota into the regional championship game on Sunday night.

Despite giving up seven goals, freshman goaltender Dalton Izyk turned in a terrific performance for Robert Morris, stopping 43 of the 50 shots he faced. Sophomore Adam Wilcox (TBL) wasn’t tested quite as much as his counterpart, but made key saves throughout the game to backstop the Golden Gophers to the victory with a 22-save performance.

“It was good for us to get that win,” Mike Reilly said after the game. “The guys are really pumped up right now and are looking forward to whichever team we meet tomorrow night.”

“It was the type of game we needed to have tonight,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia at the post-game press conference. “We were led by our captains; both Nate (Condon) and Kyle (Rau) had outstanding games tonight. We feel good about advancing and now we’ll sit back and wait and see who we play tomorrow.”

The University of Minnesota will meet St. Cloud State University. The Huskies defeated the University of Notre Dame in a thrilling 4-3 overtime win. Senior Nic Dowd (LAK) netted the game winner at the 17:21 mark of overtime to propel St. Cloud State to the regional final match against Minnesota.

One of the more interesting aspects of this game was the disparity of shots between the two teams. Notre Dame outshot St. Cloud State 42-28 in the game. The Huskies, who only generated two shots on goal in the third period, didn’t register their first shot of the period until the 16:30 mark.

Freshman Ryan Papa put St. Cloud State on the board first at the 6:54 mark of the opening period. Notre Dame senior Bryan Rust (PIT) answered at the 10:30 mark. Junior Brooks Bertsch would regain the lead for the Huskies at the 19:25 mark, but Notre Dame once again tied the game at the 8:18 mark of the second period on a snipe by senior defenseman Kevin Lind (ANA) to make it 2-2. St. Cloud State would gain the lead for the third time late in the second period when sophomore Jonny Brodzinski (LAK) posted his 21st of the season on the power play at 19:35.

But the Fighting Irish weren’t about to give up. Sophomore Thomas Di Pauli (WSH) would tie the score yet again at the 9:35 mark of the third period, making it 3-3.

While both teams generated some good scoring opportunities in the overtime session, both senior Steven Summerhays for Notre Dame and junior Ryan Faragher for St. Cloud State came up with big saves to extend the game.

That stalemate would stand until Dowd ended it at the 17:21 mark with a wrister from the left faceoff circle to lift the Huskies past the Fighting Irish, 4-3, bringing Notre Dame’s season to a heartbreaking end.

“We’re obviously very disappointed,” Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson somberly said at the post-game press conference. “I thought we played very good hockey for sixty minutes. We changed our game in the third and in overtime. That gave St. Cloud a lot of life.”

“I was telling David (Morley) that I kind of lost mobility in my entire body after that went in,” Dowd jokingly said when describing his game-winner at the post-game press conference. “So it’s tough for me to say what I was trying to do there. I know that Dave made a great play there in the neutral zone. He bumped it over to me and we were fortunate to get it in.”

Faragher was brilliant in goal throughout the game for St. Cloud State. He stopped 39 of Notre Dame’s 42 shots en route to his 20th win of the season. Summerhays finished with 24 saves on 28 shots in the loss.

“Ryan was huge,” Jonny Brodzinski said of Faragher after the game. “He made some saves that some of the normal goalies would never make. He’s been huge for us all year and that’s just normal for him really.”

The Minnesota-St. Cloud State matchup sets up not only a state of Minnesota battle, but also a battle between the Brodzinski brothers.

“We met the Gophers earlier this year, so this will be the second time (this season and) in my life that I’ll be playing against my brother,” said Jonny Brodzinski. “It’ll be pretty exciting but I have to play him like I would play any other player on the opposing team.”

The West Regional final takes place on Sunday evening at 6:30 pm. The winner will advance to the Frozen Four in Philadelphia, PA on April 10th and 12th.

Follow DJ Powers in Twitter via @DJPowersHF