Minnesota gets its revenge after WCHA playoffsST. PAUL, Minn. — There would be no magical timeout or storied comeback this time.
By: Tom Miller, The Dickinson Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. — There would be no magical timeout or storied comeback this time.
Instead, the Minnesota Gophers got their revenge.
One week after the University of North Dakota beat the Gophers in the WCHA Final Five semifinals by scoring six unanswered goals following a timeout by Sioux coach Dave Hakstol, Minnesota replaced those memories with a 5-2 victory over UND on Sunday in the championship game of the NCAA West Regional at Xcel Energy Center.
“Throughout this whole week we just wanted to go back to work,” Minnesota senior Taylor Matson said, “not worry about last week and just keep moving forward.” Minnesota coach Don Lucia, who advances to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2005, sensed a confidence in his team Sunday that wasn’t there in last weekend’s collapse against the Sioux in which the Gophers lost 6-3 after leading 3-0.
“You have that sense of how the team was playing, I was pretty relaxed,” Lucia said.
After Erik Haula, Matson and Travis Boyd scored second-period goals for the Gophers, there weren’t many dicey moments for Minnesota down the stretch like there was a week before in the same building. UND wasn’t able to muster much of any comeback, something that might have conjured up bad memories of last weekend had the Sioux been able to gather some momentum.
Instead, the Gophers remained steady even when the Sioux pulled goalie Aaron Dell with more than three minutes remaining.
“We had been playing great third periods all year long,” Lucia said. “That is what I was telling people all week long. I was personally sick of it. There is a trend to our team, and we had been playing great third periods all year long.” Matson, who scored Minnesota’s third goal after Danny Kristo had cut the Sioux deficit to 2-1, said the Gophers had a pep talk this week about moving past the emotional loss at the Final Five.
“We kind of wanted to get that last game out of our system against North Dakota,” Matson said. “Words can’t describe playing against North Dakota. If you can’t get up for that game, you can’t get up for anything. Our bench was great all night. We were motivating our guys on the bench and everyone was excited.” Hakstol said he didn’t notice any difference in the urgency of Minnesota as opposed to last week.
“I think they played a pretty good, consistent game,” he said. “I thought we had a good push to start the third period. It just wasn’t enough tonight. Had we been able to push that to a 2-2 game or take a one-goal game into the third period, it would’ve been different.”
Miller is a sports reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.