Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.

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Countdown to Frozen Four: Four days away

Posted by: Roman Augustoviz under Frozen Four, Gophers, Men's hockey Updated: April 1, 2012 - 6:44 PM

The goalie is often the most important player in a hockey game. The second semifinal of the Frozen Four between the Gophers and Boston College will match up two of the best this season. Here's a close-up look at both:

Meet a Gopher: Kent Patterson, the Gophers senior goalie. His teammates have a lot of confidence in "Patty." He has started 42 consecutive games this season. He was an all-WCHA first team goalie.

He had a solid 2.24 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. He has seven shutouts and, early in the first period against Boston College, he will go over 2,500 minutes played.

Patterson prefers seeing a lot of shots, which he probably will against the Eagles. He is well-grounded emotionally, never getting too high or too low. He is the pillar Gophers coach Don Lucia build this team around.

He was the MVP of the West Regional. Lucia says he almost always gives the Gophers a chance to win.

Meet an opponent: BC's goalie Parker Milner is on an incredible run. The Eagles go into the Frozen Four on a 17-game winning streak and Milner has not five up more than two goals in any of those games.

Milner, a 6-1, 197-pound junior from Pittsburgh, Pa., has given up two goals five times, one goal six times and has five shutouts.

It's not that he does not see a lot of shots. He does. In his last 16 games, he has faced 42 shots onces, between 30 and 39 six times, more than 25 five times and under 25 just four times (19, 20, 22 and 23).

Milner was Hockey East's player of the month in March when he was 8-0 with a 0.88 goals-against average and a .971 save percentage.

Overall, his numbers are great, too. He is 27-5-0 with a 1.70 gaa and a .935 save percentage.

Frozen Four fact: BC coach Jerry York is taking his 10 team to the Frozen Four in 15 years. In those previous nine trips, the Eagles have reached the title game seven times and won three NCAA titles, the last two in 2008 and 2010. So BC is going for its third title in five years.

The quote: Asked about Milner not giving up more than two goals the past 16 games, Patterson said, "That is a great state for him. That's why our forwards are going to be working on getting pucks to the net. And we will look at the video and see what his weaknesses are.

"My job is just like his. He is going to worry about stopping pucks, so am I. And our forwards are going to worry about scoring."

PUSHING EXTRA HARD

 Sophomore center Nick Bjugstad of the Gophers said his team's lack of Frozen Four experience may not necessarily be all bad against a Boston College team that won the NCAA title in 2010.

 "Experience helps," he said last week, "but I think it is a little motivation for our seniors. They haven't been there before. They will be pushing extra hard. We will be pushing extra hard for them.

"BC is a little experienced. They have won a national championship a couple of years ago. You have to take account of that. But anyone can win here. It is a two-game [event]. It is whoever brings it basically. A lot of passion within the games and it will fun to play in."

Bjugstad said he knows a few of BC's players.

"I know a few of their defensemen, [Brian] Dumolin, a Hobey Baker finalist," Bjugstad said "They are big guys and they are fast, so we are going to have to get pucks behind them and just outwork them basically. I know they are skilled as well. We are really going to have to play physical and use our speed."

Bjugstad said it was nice that the Gophers' defensemen scored three goals in the West Regional. "We don't really rely on them to score," he said. "They do their job really well in the defensive zone. But when they pitch in, it really helps our team out. In that BU game, Jake Parenteau and Helgy [Seth Helgeson] got some big goals. Hopefully, they can do that this upcoming weekend.

"[If] you are getting secondary scorers and defensemen that is the key to winning."

STRATEGY SHIFT

Bjugstad said the forwards were making a conscious effort to get the puck to the defensemen last weekend.

"This time of the year a lot of teams are collapsing toward the middle of the ice," he said. "Not allowing a lot of shots, blocking a lot of shots. We are really emphasizing in practice getting low and hitting our defensemen [on the points]. That was planned. We were looking for our 'D' all weekend. And it really worked out."

He said the way last season ended had a carryover to this season.

"After last year, it was pretty tough losing to Alaska Anchorage, getting swept [at home in the first round of the WCHA playoffs," he said. "We took some pride there and worked hard all summer. We realized what was at stake. We have been struggling the past couple of years. It really is good to redeem ourselves here and get to the [Frozen Four].

"This program has been to a lot of tournaments [this is the 20th Frozen Four] and [has won] five national championships. There is a little pressure obviously from the fans and everyone else. We put that pressure on ourselves, too. We realize we have a big fan base here and we have to show a lot of pride, just because it is a big program."

LITTLE SLUMP

Bjugstad, since getting injured in late February at Nebraska Omaha, only had two goals -- one an empty-netter -- and two assists in six games.

"I am feeling fine. A little slump individually," he said. "But I have to do everything I can defensively and, if it is not going in for me, other guys are scoring. I will rely on my linemates, too. We all kind of rely on each other at different times.

"I started off pretty hot. We all started off pretty hot. We all have had some ups and downs. I'd say the past month for me individually hasn't been the best point-wise. But we are winning and that is the main thing and that is all that really matters."

He said the Gophers will have to come out hard on Thursday versus Boston College.

"We realize what is at stake and we really can't sit back," he said. "Usually Friday nights -- it won't be a Friday night -- but Thursday night, first games, we have tended to struggle. I don' t think that will be the case Thursday."

"Hopefully, we can all put it together and perform this weekend."

 

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