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Minnesota Hockey: Gophers Defeat Omaha 7-2 advance to NCAA West Regional Final

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It will be an all-Minnesota final Sunday night

Matt Miller

The Minnesota Golden Gophers win their first NCAA Regional game outside of the state of Minnesota since 2007 with a 7-2 thrashing of the Omaha Mavericks. Minnesota jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and seemed to have control of the game for the entire night. The Gophers now advance to the West Region Final Sunday night where one Minnesota team is guaranteed to advance to the Frozen Four as the Gophers will face Minnesota State for a trip to Pittsburgh.

The Gophers avoided the slow start that pained them in the Big Ten tournament, which was key. The Gophers took a 1-0 lead when Mason Nevers scored his first goal in the Maroon and Gold on a gorgeous feed from Brock Fabler 5:48 into the game.

Ten minutes later it was a Brock Faber laser from the point that was tipped in by Jack Perbix to make it 2-0 Gophers. Faber was originally credited with the goal, but it was changed to Perbix late in the game.

Two minutes and one second later Scott Reedy make it 3-0 Gophers trailing into the zone and finding the open net.

Before you could even get the Funnel Chant out, Omaha came right back down the ice and cut the Gopher lead to 3-1 28 seconds later with 1:56 left in the period. Omaha hoped it would cut into the Gophers momentum, but...no dice.

The Gophers came out right away in the second period and started off on fire. Ryan Johnson took the pass from Faber and sniped the top corner to make it 4-1 Gophers just 41 seconds into the period and all the momentum was back on the side of the maroon and gold.

The Gophers and Omaha traded chances back and forth for the next six minutes befor Ben Meyers took a pretty feed from Jackson LaCombe to make it 5-1 less than seven minutes into period 2 and send Omaha starter Isiah Saville to the showers.

Austin Roden took over the goaltending duties for Omaha and he held down the fort for about ten minutes before Mason Nevers continued his career game. He took a pretty feed from Sampo Ranta for his second goal of the game, and second career collegiate goal to make it 6-1 Gophers. That’s how the 2nd would end.

Just 3:05 into the third period Omaha showed a sign of life when the would cut the Gopher lead to 6-2, but Minnesota would not fold like the did against Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. Sampo Ranta made it another weekend where he would find the back of the net makin it 7-2 Gophers just 1:12 later to ice the game for good. Jaxon Nelson with the pretty assist.

That is how the game would end. Brock Faber would have his best game as a Gopher tying an NCAA Tournament record with five assists in the game. Nevers would score his first two goals as a Gopher and Jack Lafontaine did when he needed to do making 26 saves to earn the win.

Minnesota did get some bad news postgame as senior forward Brannon McManus missed the third period with an upper body injury and Bob Motzko said in the postgame media scrum that he would not be available for Sunday’s game against Minnesota State.

Minnesota will have a guaranteed NCAA Tournament team Sunday evening as the Gophers will face Minnesota State in the West Region Final. The Mavericks came back from a 3-1 deficit in the third period to force overtime and won it in OT on a goal by Ryan Sandelin—the son of UMD coach Scott Sandelin.

As of the time of the completion of this now very early Sunday morning, Scott Sandelin’s UMD team was still playing in the longest game in NCAA Tournament history tied with North Dakota 2-2 in the fourth overtime in the Midwest Region Final in Fargo.

We will have a preview of the Gophers/Mavericks game later on Sunday.