Thursday, April 5, 2012

Gopher Gab: Frozen Four

By Jason Rossow

The Gophers are back in the Frozen Four for the first time since 2005. The regular season WCHA champs dominated the West Regional crushing Boston 7-3 and North Dakota 5-2.  Now, they face the unanimous No. 1 team in the nation: Boston College.

Boston College may be the most talented team in the nation, and has the hottest goalie as a backstop. BC shut out Air Force 2-0 and Duluth 4-0 on their way to the semi’s. Coached by legend Jerry York, their team is clicking on all cylinders. They’ve won 17 in a row dating back to January 21st, and goalie Parker Milner has not allowed more than two goals in a game during that stretch. They have a very balanced attack with six players scoring 34 or more points this year. The overall No. 1 seed in the tourney, they are the favorite to win it all.

Don’t count out Minnesota just yet, though. as they are the second best team in the tournament still playing. Their best player is Nick Bjugstad, who is likely to end his career with the Gophers and sign in the NHL after this weekend. His 25 goals are the most since Ryan Potulnu in 2006, and he leads a very solid Minnesota team. Erik Haula leads the Gophers with 48 points, which is the most by any Gophers since Ryan Potulny in 2006. Haula has 16 points in the past nine games, and is the hottest player on the team going into the National Semifinals. Kyle Rau has been as good as any freshman in the nation. At 5’8", 170lbs, he doesn’t look intimidating, but he's one of the hardest hitting Gophers and spends a ton of time in front of the net. He has had a wonderful first year, putting up 18 goals and 25 assists.  Here’s hoping Kyle lights the lamp, and we get to sing the “RAUser” (see what I did there?).

Minnesota hasn’t left the Twin Cities to play a hockey game since they traveled to Omaha in late February. I’m not sure if that has any effect on this team and how Tampa Bay hosting the Frozen Four will play out. Two of the most storied hockey programs in the country will face off when hockey giants Minnesota and BC collide. The first semifinal features two first-time Frozen Four entries in Ferris St. and Union. No matter which teams advance to the final, it will be a new school vs. old school championship.

Don Lucia is in his fourth Frozen Four at Minnesota, and was a finalist for the Spencer Penrose Coach of the Year Award. Lucia’s first two trips to the Frozen Four at Minnesota both ended with the Gophers winning it all. The Gophers are now in their 20th Frozen Four all-time, and are aiming for their sixth ever national Title. Getting past Boston College isn’t going to be easy, but the Gophers have a team that could pull the upset. The winner of the BC/Minnesota game will be a heavy favorite Saturday night to win it all.

For the Gophers to win, they’ll need solid goaltending from Kent Patterson. I think top to bottom the Gophers and BC are very close, and the game will come down to luck and goaltending. If I had to pick, I think Milner is the better goalie, as he hasn’t lost since December 2nd. Minnesota is an underdog, but Michigan was a much bigger underdog last year and knocked out UND in the semifinals. This isn’t the Stanley Cup Playoffs where you need to win four to advance. In a one-and-done format, anything is possible. 

GO GOPHERS!  Bring back No. 6!

No comments:

Post a Comment