FF: Minnesota beats BU, advances to national title game
TAMPA, Fla. — Luke Mittelstadt scored two goals in the third period, which carried Minnesota to Saturday’s national championship game with a 6-2 win over Boston University in the first semifinal game at the Frozen Four on Thursday night.
The Gophers advanced to the title game for the first time since 2014 when they lost to Union in Philadelphia. Minnesota’s last national championship was in 2003, the second of back-to-back titles under Don Lucia.
Saturday’s national title game will also be the first appearance for Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko. He led Minnesota to the Frozen Four last season and helped St. Cloud State reach the Frozen Four in 2013, but both times his team fell in the national semifinals.
The Terriers got on the board first after Minnesota nearly scored in the opening minutes.
Defenseman Domenick Fensore walked the blue line and fed a puck through traffic. Justen Close made the initial save with his left pad, but Sam Stevens powered his way to the net and backhanded the rebound, giving BU a 1-0 lead almost halfway through the opening frame.
Minnesota responded with a pair of goals in less than a minute.
At the 4:51 mark of the period Mike Koster tied the game on the power play after he corraled an exceptional pass from Logan Cooley across the ice. Jay O'Brien was in the box for BU with an elbowing minor.
Rhett Pitlick gave the Gophers the lead on the power play after Luke Tuch was called for interference on a faceoff. Aaron Huglen made a ridiculous between-the-legs pass near the crease, and Pitlick tapped it in for a 2-1 lead.
Minnesota applied the pressure near the end of the first period and almost doubled its lead with 44.5 seconds left. Matthew Knies and Jimmy Snuggerud switched lanes as Knies carried the puck into the zone. Knies drove the net and Logan Cooley, the third man high on the rush, pounced on the rebound from the top of the crease.
However, after a review (BU challenged the play), the call on the ice changed to no goal, and Minnesota still led 2-1. After driving to the net, Knies' stick got lodged in Commesso's glove, which prevented him from defending Cooley's shot.
The power play proved to play an important role in the second period.
First, it helped out BU. With Ryan Johnson off for slashing, Fensore again took a shot from the point and Jay O'Brien tipped it from the high slot, which changed its trajectory and it slipped past Close to tie the game.
BU had two players in the slot for a tip -- O'Brien was the top layer (and he tipped the puck), but Wilmer Skoog was also ready to tip the shot from the top of the crease.
With exactly one minute left in the second period, the Gophers had a golden chance. With Lane Hutson already in the box for tripping, Ty Gallagher was called for tripping Matthew Knies, which gave the Gophers 55 seconds of 5-on-3 time.
BU killed off the remaining time on that two-man advantage. However, just a few seconds later, Cade Webber was called for charging at the buzzer. That gave Minnesota another full minute of 5-on-3 to begin the third period.
The Gophers had multiple chances in the first 40 minutes to break the game open, hitting four posts and having two reviewed plays called no goal. On top of the review in the first period, the Gophers nearly scored during the 5-on-3 in the second period on a play where Commesso got his glove on top of the puck just before it crossed the line. In fact, it may have crossed the line, but the video evidence was inconclusive, and it was called no goal.
BU killed the second 5-on-3, but the Terriers couldn’t kill off the remaining 5-on-4 time. With 21 seconds left on the man advantage, Minnesota’s Luke Mittelstadt snapped a shot from the top left of the umbrella that beat Commesso glove side and gave the Gophers a 3-2 lead 1:40 into the third period.
The Gophers expanded their less than two minutes later. Connor Kurth won a puck battle and then worked the puck back up top to his defensemen. He then set up shop in front of Commesso’s crease and created a screen for Mittelstadt’s second goal in 1:41.
BU pulled its goalie late in the third period, and the Gophers added two empty-net goals.
The national championship game will be played Saturday night at Amalie Arena. The puck will drop at 8 p.m. Minnesota will play the winner of Thursday’s second semifinal between Michigan and Quinnipiac.
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