In case you haven't noticed, I've been trying to avoid writing this post. Well, here goes nothing.
The Gophers faced off against the Sioux in the semifinal game of the Final Five. As you probably know by now, the Gophers built a 3-0 lead through the late second period before the Sioux came storming back, scoring one late in the second and five in the third to swamp the Gophers and advance to the Final Five Championship game, which they would win a day later over Denver by a 4-0 score.
What you may not recognize at first blush is just how absurd this game was. I've watched a lot of Gopher Hockey in my life, and the Gophers may have played the best game I've EVER seen them play for 39 minutes. Unfortunately, they forgot that a hockey game is three periods long and absolutely tanked in the third. At one point late in the second period, the shots on goal were 19-4 Gophers, and the edge in play was about that wide. Minnesota controlled the puck for the entirety of the first two periods, but a series of goals scored on semi-fortunate bounces gave North Dakota new life, as a seeing-eye shot from the point by Derek Forbort beat Patterson to cut the Gopher lead to two. Then, early in the third, Michael Parks scored a goal on a deflection off the endboards, Brock Nelson scored on a botched clearing attempt by the Gophers in the slot, Mario Lamoureux got another one, Corban Knight scored on a weird deflection, and Lamoureux scored his second of the night on another one off the endboards.
This was really a tale of two games, and the Gophers did not do enough in their portion of the game to put North Dakota away. The Gophers only scored three goals despite putting a ton of grade "A" chances on Sioux goalie Aaron Dell, who was the player of the game in my book. Dell stopped several Nick Bjugstad point-blank chances and got some help from the post as Travis Boyd hit the crossbar on a two-on-one opportunity. When you're dominating the game, you've got to score and put it out of reach. The Gophers failed to do that in the first two periods, and the Sioux made them pay.
Three Gopher Stars of the Game
3. Nick Bjugstad - 0G-0A-0P
Bjugstad did not score in the game, but he had a ton of quality chances and his line dominated when it was out there. Bjugstad doesn't get held off the scoresheet that often, so I expect him to take advantage in the NCAA Tournament.
2. Nate Schmidt - 0G-2A-2P
Schmidt set up the Gophers' first two goals, and his 35 assists rank fourth nationally and first on this Minnesota squad. The Gophers will need his offense in the national tournament.
1. Kyle Rau - 1G-1A-2P
Rau scored the Gophers' first goal and added an assist on the third goal. He always hustles and moves his feet every shift. His 17 goals on the year and 38 points are the most by a Minnesota freshman since Jay Barriball and Kyle Okposo in 2006-2007 (20 and 19 goals respectively) and Jordan Schroeder in 2008-2009 (45 pts). Rau is a vital part of the Gopher attack, and he played a really good game on Friday, the result notwithstanding.