The only superstar in the Gophers’ lineup is consistency, and it’s the reason they are headed back to a second Frozen Four in three years.
A consistent well-rounded offense, a consistent ability to overcome setbacks, and a consistent goaltender produced a 4-0 victory over St. Cloud State in the NCAA West Regional championship game Sunday night in front of an announced crowd of 8,893 at Xcel Energy Center.
“We’ve been so consistent all year long. There hasn’t really been many clunkers,” Lucia said. “I’m really proud of this team. We got beat a week ago Friday, and they came to the rink really ready to work on Saturday and prepare for the games this weekend.”
Freshman Justin Kloos scored two goals to lead the effort, while upperclassmen Seth Ambroz and Kyle Rau padded another big night of offense for the Gophers. Adam Wilcox made 24 saves.
The Gophers advanced to face North Dakota in one national semifinal on April 10 in Philadelphia. Boston College and Union meet in the other half of the Frozen Four.
The Gophers outscored opponents 11-3 through their two regional victories and never trailed. No single line or player carried the load, though, and that’s the way the overall No. 1 seeds likes it.
Mike Reilly said the group has grown accustomed to counting on different guys each night.
One adjustment the Gophers did make this weekend was in their upperclassman leadership. It showed in the effort from co-captains Nate Condon and Kyle Rau, who not only combined for seven points, but were more vocal on the bench, Lucia said.
Rau continues to provide a veteran presence on the score sheet with seven goals in the past nine games.
“I gotta give a lot of credit to Condon this weekend. I thought he was phenomenal and really led his line,” said junior forward Travis Boyd, who had two assists Sunday. “And all the other seniors and juniors really did a great job this weekend. I think that was one of the big reasons we had success.”
St. Cloud State struggled to produce scoring chances for the second night in a row and was shut out for only the second time this season.
Kloos finished the weekend with three goals and was chosen the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
Kloos’ wraparound goal midway through the first period went in off a defender’s skate. His second goal showcased his quickness once again on a breakout with linemates Nate Condon and Taylor Cammarata. A pair of sharp passes found Kloos waiting near the crease for a 3-0 lead.
“As far as our team, we played pretty much complete throughout and we’re definitely hitting our stride at the right time,” Kloos said.
Huskies goaltender Ryan Faragher’s night ended early. His teammates praised his resolve in a 39-save overtime victory that helped secure a spot in the regional final, but coach Bob Motzko pulled Faragher from the net after the Gophers’ third goal, later citing his goaltender’s bad health as the reason.
Scoring first continues to pay off the Gophers. Kloos’ first goal grabbed the first lead and eventually extended their record to 17-0-5 when scoring first.
Motzko said there wasn’t much the Huskies could do to slow down the Gophers’ speed, ending their run for back-to-back Frozen Four appearances.
“They shut a lot of things down. We never got a power play,” Motzko said. “We have some spurts but … Minnesota played an outstanding game.”