Gophers’ Holl Scores with 0.6 Seconds Left to Propel Minnesota to National Championship Game
Philadelphia, PA – Just another classic moment in the Minnesota-North Dakota rivalry.
Whenever you say Minnesota-North Dakota, you know you're in for something special. These two teams have fought numerous battles over the years, with names like Broten and Wheeler etched in Gopher lore for the miracle-goals they’ve scored to beat North Dakota on a grand stage. Tonight, Minnesota fans will add Justin Holl’s name to that storied list, after his shorthanded goal with 0.6 seconds left in the third period broke a 1-1 tie and vaulted the Minnesota Gophers (28-6-6) over North Dakota and into the National Championship Game.
Outside of the rivalry, the game itself was an exciting one, with both teams trading conservative but relentless hockey for the better part of the first two periods. The goaltenders were the stars of the show, with Adam Wilcox stopping chance after chance from a fired up North Dakota squad, and UND’s Zane Gothberg making all the saves he needed to make to keep it knotted at 0-0.
The two teams exchanged chances throughout the first two periods, but neither Minnesota nor North Dakota could break the deadlock through the first fifty minutes. The game’s first goal was scored with only 9:09 remaining in the third period, as Sam Warning scored his 13th of the season from Kyle Rau to give the Gophers a 1-0 lead. Rau skated the puck around the net before trying to stuff a wrap-around attempt home. The puck slid off his stick, but Warning was right there to backhand it home.
Minnesota’s lead was short-lived, though, as North Dakota’s Connor Gaarder scored just 32 seconds later on his own rebound, knocked out of the air, off Wilcox’s side and into the net.
From that moment on, the game was an intense fight to the finish. North Dakota had the better of the play late in the third, and were rewarded with a late powerplay (their second of the game and only the third penalty called on either team throughout the contest) when Mike Reilly held a hard-charging Drake Caggiula up the right wing boards with 1:39 left to go in the third.
Minnesota was able to kill off the penalty until the 9 second mark, when there was a faceoff in their own zone. Kyle Rau, who had been stellar in the faceoff circle all game long, won a clutch defensive zone draw, and the rest is history:
Justin Holl, who had played an absolutely stellar game, found the puck and led the rush up the ice. Holl fed Rau, who fired it at the net with time winding down. The puck bounced off a UND defender and right to Holl, who deftly kicked it to his stick and threw a perfectly-placed shot at the net. The puck hit the inside of the far pipe before settling into the back of the net with 0.6 seconds remaining on the clock to give the Gophers the 2-1 victory! The players rushed the ice and piled on Holl, who picked a perfect time to score his first goal of the season.
Minnesota will face a Union team that beat Boston College 5-4 this afternoon to punch their ticket to the title game. Union is an older team that can beat you with defense and stout goaltending or high-powered offense. The Dutchmen bring the #2 ranked offense into the national championship game, along with the #4 ranked defense. Minnesota, on the other hand, is #6 in total offense and #2 in total defense. The teams are similarly ranked on the powerplay and penalty kill, and both squads like to play a clean game – Minnesota was the fifth-least penalized team in the country this year, while Union was T-36th in the country in penalties per game. All in all it should be a great game between two of the country’s best teams from start to finish. The puck drops at 6:30 PM Central Time, and you can find the game on ESPN for TV and 1500ESPN Radio.
Final SOG: UND 37, MN 28
Kyle Rau assisted on both of the Gopher goals tonight. The Junior captain now has 25 assists on the year to go along with his 14 goals. Rau also tallied a team-high 5 shots on goal on the evening.
No official three stars were released, but I would select: 3) Kyle Rau, 2) Adam Wilcox, 1) Justin Holl
Minnesota advances to its first NCAA Title Game since 2003, and this is the first NCAA Title Game ever for Union.
The Gophers are 2-1-0 all-time against the Dutchmen. Their last meeting was on 12/31/2010, when Union beat Minnesota 3-2 in OT in the first game of the Mariucci Classic.
Minnesota will be skating for its sixth NCAA Title. The Gophers last appeared in the championship game in 2003, beating New Hampshire to claim the title.