Gophers Fall Short of National Championship

Alex Sharp, Contributor

The Minnesota Golden Gophers played in the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Hockey National Championship over the weekend and unfortunately lost to the Quinnipiac Bobcats, who won their first championship in program history. The 3-2 overtime loss was a rollercoaster of skill and emotion, but a disappointing second and third period from the Gophers was too much to overcome.

Quinnipiac doubled the Gophers in shots on goal at 30-15, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The Gophers got off to a strong start with a quick goal from John Mittlestadt. Some great saves by Justen Close kept the clean sheet alive, and Minnesota was also able to stay out of the box in the early game. The Gophers outshot Quinnipiac 7 to 4 in the first period. Let that sink in. 15 total shots on goal and 7 of them came in the first period. The team got off to a quick start in the second, with a goal by Jaxon Nelson only five minutes in. This is where the train began to slow down for the Golden Gophers, as they would not find the net for the rest of the match. Quinnipiac was able to answer with a bit of a snafu from Justen Close only three minutes later, and the Gopher lead shrank to 1 goal. In the second period, the Gophers were outshot 11-6, with chances beginning to be few and far between for the Gophers. The third period was a tough battle for the Gophers, being outshot by a staggering margin of 14 shots to 2. Quinnipiac had complete control the whole period, but the Gophers still retained the lead. It was looking up for the team albeit the pressure until a lazy penalty by Logan Cooley late in the third. The high sticking penalty was emotionally charged and allowed for Quinnipiac to gain control. The Bobcats failed to score on the power play, but took a risk and pulled the goalie with three minutes left. Right after the goalie was pulled, Jacob Quillian of Quinnipiac slotted the equalizer in the back of the net. With the game tied, tensions were high, but the Gophers crawled into overtime. Overtime intermission provided some solace for Gopher fans. Although Quinnipiac had complete control over the game, an intermission could provide the rest needed for the team to get their minds right. Sadly, this did not happen. Jacob Quillian scored his second goal of the game only 10 seconds into overtime, ending the Gopher’s hopes for the national championship. Coach Bob Motzko described the game in the postgame interview as “a crusher.” “That one’s gonna sting,” he said. “We had it, we had it.” Although the game didn’t turn out quite as planned for Minnesota fans, the Gophers will be back next year to make another run. However, they are losing some key players.

Brock Faber, Matthew Knies, and Jackson LaCombe all made their NHL debuts over the weekend. Faber skated 21 minutes for the Minnesota Wild with his defensive pairing Alex Goligoski, a former Gopher. The Wild got the win over the Blackhawks. Matthew Knies also claimed a win for the Toronto Maple Leafs over the Florida Panthers, playing on a line with Noel Acciari and Alexander Kerfoot. Austin Matthews, the Maple Leafs star, also spent some time on the ice with Knies, which certainly had to be a dream come true. Jackson LaCombe put some time in with the Anaheim Ducks and was paired with Kevin Shattenkirk. He played 18 solid minutes in their loss against the Vancouver Canucks.

Overall, the Gophers had a great season as the best team in college hockey. Fans will be hopeful that they can make another run for it all next year.