In our preview of the West Region Final between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Minnesota State Mavericks we had five keys to the game for the Gophers. Well, they went 0-5 and the Mavericks took advantage defeating Minnesota 4-0 to end the Gophers season. Minnesota State advances to their first ever Frozen Four and will play St. Cloud State guaranteeing one Minnesota school a chance to play for their first NCAA Championship. The 100th year of Gopher Hockey goes out with a whimper.
The Gophers came out flat and the Mavericks came out flying as expected. It didn’t go well. Minnesota State scored a pair of goals 2:07 apart in the first period and the Gophers looked lost. Jack Lafontaine needed to be great...and he wasn’t. The Maverick’s first goal came on a wraparound that LaFontaine needed to save. The second on a deflected shot that LaFontaine had no chance on, but this game would have been a lot different had it been 1-0 and not 2-0.
The second period didn’t have any scoring, but Minnesota could not find any chances either. The Gophers had seven shots on goal with four minutes left in the period, and made it all the way to nine by the end of the period, but none were great chances.
The third period is where you expected to get that flurry of effort that Minnesota used to come back and earn come from behind wins over Michigan State and Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament. It never came. Minnesota got a power play attempt halfway through the period and did absolutely nothing. The Mavericks came back and scored their third goal of the game 40ish seconds after the penalty was over, and that was that. Minnesota finally showed some signs of life in the final five minutes of the game, but they still couldn’t fool McKay and he earned his 21th career shutout, two of which now are against the Gophers. The Gophers pulled Jack Lafontaine with 3:11 left in the game, and it took just 54 seconds for the Mavericks to put the final nail in the coffin with an empty net goal to make it 4-0.
The Gophers needed their best players to stop up and have a great game...and they were no where to be found. Scott Reedy, Blake McLaughlin and Brock Faber were on the ice for three of the four Maverick goals. Ryan Johnson and Sammy Walker were on the ice for two of the four. Sampo Ranta, Walker and McLaughlin each had two shots on goal. McLaughlin’s were both in the first period—he completely evaporated the rest of the game. Ranta didn’t have one until the 8 minute left mark of the game. Just unacceptable for a team with National Championship aspirations.
Long story short, in the biggest game of the season, Minnesota’s biggest stars disappeared and the Mavericks had the best total team effort by a mile and are rewarded with their first trip to the Frozen Four because of it. There will be three Minnesota teams in the Frozen Four, but the Gophers will not be one of them, and the fan grumblings will continue until they can finally show that they are not the fourth or five best team in the state any longer. Congrats to Minnesota State, St. Cloud State and Minnesota-Duluth. They earned it, while the Gophers failed to live up to expectations yet again.