Jason Gonzalez has covered an array of sports at all levels over the last nine years. He learned ice hockey, however, long before — during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah (his hometown). He got a close up look of legendary Gophers alum Herb Brooks and other Minnesota hockey greats. Jason has been with the Star Tribune since 2012.
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Adam Wilcox had something to prove on Sunday night. The goaltender made his point with a 4-0 shutout of St. Cloud State in the NCAA tournament West Regional championship at Xcel Energy Center.
Wilcox had an uncharateristic night on Saturday when he gave up three goals. That didn't sit well with the sophomore and he returned to the rink on Sunday with extra focus, coach Don Lucia said.
The determination stopped all 24 of the Huskies' shots to claim his third shutout of the season and seventh of his career. He's now tied for the third-most in Gophers hockey history.
"I'm no a goalie expert, but sometiems they look locked and loaded and that's how he looked tonight," Lucia said "He looked right-on and he was really sharp tonight."
Sunday's win marked the 50th of his young career, already among the top 10 goaltenders in program history.
"The shutout was cool, but just getting the win and gonig to the Frozen Four is a feeling I haven't had before and is really special," Wilcox said.
Hear more from Wilcox and other Gophers in the below video.
• The Gophers freshmen standouts continued to shine in their second NCAA tournament game. Justin Kloos scored two goals and Taylor Cammarata had two assists. Our Chris Miller broke down their success in the tournament notebook:
A youth movement this season has paid off in the Gophers’ 21st trip to the NCAA Frozen Four. Eight freshmen played regularly, and seven were in the lineup Sunday night when the Gophers beat St. Cloud State 4-0 for the NCAA West Regional title.
With Nick Bjugstad, Erik Haula and Nate Schmidt — all would have been seniors this season — playing in the NHL, the Gophers have gone 26-6-6, with freshmen contributing an NCAA-high 56 goals.
“We have been blessed with upperclassmen who were great leaders,” said freshman center Justin Kloos, who was named the regional’s most outstanding player. “Because of our balance, you don’t have a ton of pressure. Every line can score, every line can play against the other team’s top players.
“Sometimes freshmen get in trouble trying to be cute … like soft plays at the blue line. But we’ve learned the hard way.”
Kloos scored twice Sunday after getting a goal in Saturday’s 7-3 victory over Robert Morris. He was joined on the all-regional team by Gophers goalie Adam Wilcox, defensemen Brady Skjei and Mike Reilly and forward Nate Condon.
St. Cloud State center Nic Dowd, who scored the overtime winner Saturday in a 4-3 victory over Notre Dame, also made the team.
Gophers coach Don Lucia knew he’d be relying on freshmen. They contributed 40 percent of the team’s 137 goals.
“We put them in those roles right from the get-go to get them ready for this time of year,” Lucia said. “This weekend, they learned the way they have to play. They can’t play too cute.”
Miller also looks ahead to the big matchup with North Dakota in other tournament notebook items.
• Frozen Four field is set: Gophers, North Dakota, Boston College, Union
Boston College 4, Massachusetts-Lowell 3, NCAA Northeast Regional championship
Gophers 4, St. Cloud State 0, NCAA West Regional championship
Tidbits from the West Regional championship game featuring in-state rivals:
Minnesota is now 23-13-0 all-time at the Xcel Energy Center since the facility opened in the 2000-01 season, including a 3-1-1 record this season.
St. Cloud State
Gophers postgame video
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Gophers sophomore forward Mike Reilly:
Gophers sophomore goaltender Adam Wilcox:
Gophers senior forward Nate Condon:
Gophers junior forward Kyle Rau:
Gophers junior forward Travis Boyd: