Monday, March 31, 2014

Near Flawless Gophers Advance to Frozen Four, Will Play UND!

Well, that was fun!

The Gophers dominated the overmatched St. Cloud State Huskies to advance to their second Frozen Four in three years last night.

The final score of the game was 4-0, but what was more impressive than the score was the way in which the Gophers manhandled the Huskies.  SCSU played deep into OT the night before so maybe they were running out of gas a little bit, but it seemed like the Gophers were the better team in all facets of the game.

Minnesota got on the board first and never looked back, scoring ugly goals (Kloos 1, Ambroz, Rau) as well as pretty ones (Kloos 2).

If the Gophers can play like they did tonight, no team in the country will beat them.  Minnesota dominated the puck, forcing SCSU to the outside.  Whenever they got a bad-angle shot off, Adam Wilcox was right on form, eating up every puck and rarely allowing a rebound.

The Gophers are deep this year, boasting zero players with 40+ points but nine players with more than 20 points.  Those same nine players (eight of Minnesota's top nine forwards, plus defenseman Mike Reilly) each have nine or more goals on the season.  This team comes at you all game, and each line is a threat to score.

The team defense is also astounding - both from the forwards and the defensemen.  For a team with D-men that like to get up into the rush as much as the Gophers do, the team ranks #2 in the nation in total defense, which is as much a credit to the outstanding Adam Wilcox as it is to the forwards and defensemen playing great D in front of him, blocking shots, getting sticks in lanes, backchecking hard, playing responsible hockey.  The coaches have a system that works, and the players are following it to a T.

Minnesota will face off against who else but the University of North Dakota in the National Semifinal game.  UND is a similar team to Minnesota, in that it wins with its depth and relies on good goaltending and mobile defensemen to make good choices.  I really like this matchup for Minnesota - UND does what Minnesota does, but I don't think they do it quite as well as the Gophers do.

We've all seen this Minnesota team lose games they shouldn't this year, but I think they beat North Dakota to advance to the National Championship game in two weekends if they play inspired hockey.  Against UND, I'm pretty sure they'll come to play!

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