The National Championship will be decided between two teams that are extraordinarily similar. Just take a look at the stats above. You might as well just wipe out the "Advantage" row, because they pretty much all said push before I decided it looked boring and started handing out advantages.
It's really hard to parse these numbers and find an advantage. Union has a slight scoring advantage, but played a slightly easier schedule to earn that statistical advantage. Minnesota has a slight advantage in team defense, and a slight advantage in goal tending because Adam Wilcox is a monster, but not a huge advantage.
Union's Colin Stevens is a very capable netminder with very good stats. He did an pretty good job of weathering the Boston College storm and keeping his team in the game, especially in the second period of that game where he stopped fourteen shots to preserve the tie going into the third period.
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Minnesota Edges North Dakota 2-1; Holl A Hero
In one of the most thrilling games in recent memory, the Minnesota Golden Gophers edged North Dakota with a last-second, short-handed, game-winner by Justin Holl, his first goal of the year.
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The one concern from that game for Stevens is the two goals he allowed in the last two minutes. Granted, only 4 seconds remained in the contest after the second goal, but it sure made Daniel Ciampini's empty net goal more important.
Despite allowing four goals, Union advanced through the semi-finals with a disciplined team effort. Boston College could flat-out score this season. The Dutchmen managed to stay with BC through two periods, and then open up a lead in third. That forced BC to play desperate hockey, and keep its first line on the ice even more than usual. A perfect game plan against a strong team.
Minnesota comes into the Championship game after surviving North Dakota's best game of the year. Despite the elation that resulted from Justin Holl's unbelievable last-second (literally) goal, that semi-final result could easily have gone the other way. Wilcox put the rest of the Golden Gophers on his back and willed them into a win.
I don't mean to imply the Gophers played a poor game; they played a very disciplined game. Perhaps they were a bit too cautious through the course of the game. Their forecheck never had that dominant feel to which we've become accustomed, but a lot of that had to do with North Dakota's four-man neutral zone trap.
On the other side of the ice, these teams look less alike. Union is slightly more top-heavy than Minnesota when it comes to scoring. Daniel Carr and Ciampini both have 22 goals this season, while Justin Kloos leads Minnesota with 15.
Union is the more veteran team. Six of their top eight scorers are upperclassmen. After Kloos, the Gophers are led on offense by the junior class, Kyle Rau, Seth Ambroz, and Sam Warning, but freshman have played a huge role on offense throughout the year. Despite being the second most productive class in the nation over the course of the season, those freshman did not score in Minnesota's game against UND. That must change tonight for #SkateFor6 to end successfully.
in the end, this game will be close. It won't be Minnesota vs. UND close, but it will be close. Union does not play same kind of clutch-and-grab grinding style that North Dakota played. They will be looking to skate, which should open up the ice for the Gophers, relative to the UND game.
Here's what I see happening: Minnesota wins 4-2.