The sixth spot on the Gophers’ defense goes to … Michael Brodzinski.

Brodzinski will skate with Gophers junior defenseman Ben Marshall in Thursday night’s Frozen Four semifinal against North Dakota.

It’s hard to argue with that decision after the weekend Brodzinski had in the NCAA West Regional two weeks ago in St. Paul. He scored a goal and an assist in Friday’s 7-3 victory over Robert Morris University, and helped hold St. Cloud State scoreless in the regional final.

The decision wasn’t so easy, though. Fellow freshman defensemen Jake Bischoff played 17 straight games through the middle of the season while the defensive core battled through several injuries. Once Brodzinski returned from a month-long lower-body injury, the two began to split time.

That changed when the Gophers were in need of more offense heading into the NCAA tournament. Brodzinski is a more offensive-minded defenseman and reminded the coaching staff of that in the regional opener. The sixth spot has been his since.

Gophers coach Don Lucia said the weeks of practice leading up to the Frozen Four would dictate who would earn the sixth spot on the blue line, but Bischoff saw the writing on the wall.

“After [the regional], obviously he’s going to be the one in, but we battled hard all week,” Bischoff said trying to keep a positive attitude. “I want to be ready if something does happen where I’m forced to be in the lineup. I want to do whatever I can to contribute to the team.”

• The upperclassmen’s message to the freshmen – don’t settle for being at the Frozen Four.

The Gophers’ veterans were victim of a settling mindset two years again in Tampa Bay and it showed by their one-sided loss in the national semifinal. A second trip to the Frozen Four in the last three seasons has been result of a much different approach.

“One thing we were telling the freshmen is not to just be happy that you’re here, ‘cause two years ago I think our team was just happy that we got to be in Tampa and at the Frozen Four, but this year we’ve got a different mindset and we’re trying to push that on the younger guys.”

North Dakota vs. Gophers: 7:30 p.m., ESPN2 (1500-AM)

Gophers' semifinal lines
Forwards (left wing, center, right wing)
Sam Warning, Kyle Rau, Hudson Fasching
Nate Condon, Justin Kloos, Taylor Cammarata
Tom Serratore, Travis Boyd, Seth Ambroz
Connor Reilly, Gabe Guertler, Vinni Lettieri

Defensemen (left, right)
Brady Skjei, Justin Holl
Mike Reilly, Jake Parenteau
Ben Marshall, Michael Brodzinski

Adam Wilcox, Michael Shibrowski

North Dakota's semifinal lines
Forwards (left wing, center, right wing)
Drake Caggiula, Mark MacMillan, Michael Parks
Stephane Pattyn, Rocco Grimaldi, Luke Johnson
Brendan O'Donnell, Connor Gaarder, Derek Rodwell
Bryn Chyzyk, Colten St. Clair, Andrew Panzarella

Defensemen (left, right)
Dillon Simpson, Jordan Schmaltz
Nick Mattson, Paul LaDue
Keaton Thompson, Troy Stecher

Zane Gothberg, Clarke Saunders


Record: 25-13-3 Conference: NCHC Coach: Dave Hakstol, 258-132-40, 10th season at North Dakota

Midwest Regional results: def. Wisconsin 5-2, def. Ferris State 2-1 (2OT)

Overview: North Dakota is comfortable on this stage with the most NCAA titles of anyone in the field, but it is just thankful to be here this year. The group stumbled throughout stretches of the season and again late in the year with conference regular-season and tournament titles on the line. However, UND was the last team in the NCAA tournament and has regrouped for a run to face its rival in the national semifinals. Goaltender Zane Gothberg is coming off a career-best 44 saves against Ferris State. Rocco Grimaldi (17-22—39) leads a balanced scoring attack.


Record: 27-6-6 Conference: Big Ten Coach: Don Lucia, 371-190-65, 15th season at Minnesota

West Regional results: def. Robert Morris 7-3, def. St. Cloud State 4-0

Overview: The Gophers are peaking at the right time. Though they’ve been ranked No. 1 for most of the season, it wasn’t until the West Regional final that everything looked and felt on point to them. Goalie Adam Wilcox said the victory over St. Cloud State was the best he has seen the team play in his two years with the U. Wilcox and the defense continue to be the backbone of the Gophers’ success. The upperclassmen forwards sparked an 11-goal output in the regional. If they can continue this trend, the Gophers will be tough to beat. Junior Kyle Rau (14-23—37) is the team’s leading scorer.

Frozen Four complete breakdown, including previews of Boston College and Union.

Extra reading from the Frozen Four

North Dakota-Gophers rivalry returns on biggest stage
• Team defense foundation for Gophers this season
• Frozen Four notebook.
• From our columnist Chip Scoggins: Lucia changing recruiting game plan.
• Gophers Frozen Four video.

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