PHILADELPHIA – Forget that magical number of 0.6 that will be remembered forever in Gophers hockey lore.
What happened to the Gophers over a span of 1 minute, 54 seconds in the first period Saturday felt only slightly less stunning than the timing of their last-second goal against North Dakota two nights earlier.
Leading 2-1 in the period, the Gophers felt apart defensively as Union scored three unanswered goals in a rapid-fire flurry to stagger their opponent and take the lead for good in a 7-4 victory to win the national championship at Wells Fargo Center.
Union also outshot the Gophers 8-0 in that 1:54 span to keep pressure on the Gophers star goalie Adam Wilcox, who received little support from his defense.
“It just came down to grit in front of the net,” Wilcox said. “They got a couple of good bounces that went right to them, and that was it.”
The first goal in that bang-bang-bang sequence highlighted the Gophers’ inability to clear the puck out of their zone. Union smothered Wilcox with bodies and peppered him with four shots.
Gophers forward Kyle Rau ended up on his knees in front of the crease as he tried to help Wilcox. But Union’s Mike Vecchione finally was able to jam the puck in to tie the score at 2-2.
Union was just getting warmed up. Eli Lichtenwald and Daniel Ciampini completed the assault with goals 57 seconds apart to give Union a 4-2 lead.
Wilcox had not allowed four goals in a game since giving up four against Minnesota Duluth on Jan. 25. It was stunning to see him get beat four times in one period. He wasn’t solely to blame by any means, though.
Yes, Wilcox gave up a few rebounds, but his defense did a poor job of getting bodies on Union and gaining possession of the puck. The Dutchmen played more physical in front of the net.
“Their goal was to get pucks to the net and crash our net,” defenseman Brady Skjei said. “They did a good job. We didn’t pick up sticks well enough.”