Gophers and North Dakota ... so, they meet again

The Gophers beat Boston University to advance to the regional final, where they will face longtime rival North Dakota again for a berth in the Frozen Four.

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The WCHA will have at least one team in the Frozen Four.

The Gophers, the regular-season conference champions, and North Dakota, winners of the Final Five three years in a row, will meet for the sixth time this season on Sunday with a trip to Tampa, Fla., at stake.

The Gophers, appearing in their first NCAA tournament since 2008, beat Boston University 7-3 on Saturday at Xcel Energy Center in the second semifinal of the West Regional.

Earlier at the Xcel, the Fighting Sioux advanced with a 3-1 victory over Western Michigan. The announced attendance for the doubleheader was 9,386.

The Gophers (27-13-1) won three of four games with UND during regular-season play but had a classic collapse in the Final Five semifinals. North Dakota, behind 3-0 midway through that game, rallied to win 6-3 at Xcel.

Eight days later the Gophers returned to St. Paul and sent the Terriers (23-15-1) home for good. Forwards from three lines scored for the U as did defensemen Jake Parenteau and Seth Helgeson, who got their second and fifth goals of the season, respectively. The final margin was inflated by two late empty-net goals.

Goals from different players was what Gophers coach Don Lucia wanted. "This time of the year you just can't rely on your key guys," he said. "Some other guys have to step forward and score a big goal."

Jake Hansen's power-play goal, on a deflection in second period, was the game-winner. The senior winger also scored a second goal, his 15th, after BU pulled its goalie.

"[Our] coaches did a great job all week telling us, 'Don't be scared, don't be afraid to win,'"Hansen said. "And there was a lot more talk on the bench when [the Terriers] did score and tied it up. No one got too negative."

Kyle Rau, a 5-8 freshman left winger, scored the Gophers' first goal and had three assists.

The Gophers had leads of 1-0 in the first period and 2-1 in the second. Each time the Terriers tied the score.

"When someone scores on you to tie it up after you had the lead, you get a little down on yourself," Hansen said, "but you just can't. You have to have fight on the bench and fight in your heart."

That pattern of trading goals pattern in this game was broken in the 16th minute of the second period when Helgeson and Hansen scored 29 seconds apart to put the Gophers ahead 4-2.

"Any time it seemed we had some momentum, it seemed like they got a goal and countered," Terriers forward Ross Gaudet said. "I thought we came out in the third period pretty decently."

BU got within one goal again early in the third period. Then, Nico Sacchetti, a part-time fourth-line center, restored the two-goal margin five minutes later.

Gophers goalie Kent Patterson made sure that was enough. He stopped 31 shots.

"I am just happy for our kids," Lucia said. "We had a great regular season, we got back to the Final Five, we won in the NCAA tournament. We made a great jump this year."

One familiar hurdle -- North Dakota -- remains before the Gophers can reach their season-long dream.

"They know us, we know them," Lucia said. "It will be a couple of heavyweights going at it tomorrow, as it should be this time of the year."

  • NCAA WEST REGIONAL HOCKEY TOURNAMENT GOPHERS 7, BOSTON U. 3 Regional final: Gophers vs. North Dakota • 4:30 p.m. today • Xcel Energy Center • TV: ESPNU (1500-AM)
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