By the time Ben Marshall got past the Bemidji State defense, he was thinking one thing: Get the puck on the net. Beavers goalie Andrew Walsh had frustrated the Gophers throughout their WCHA first-round playoff series at Mariucci Arena, and Marshall didn’t want to go to overtime again.
The Gophers defenseman said he was a bit surprised when his backhander slipped past Walsh with 53 seconds left, giving the Gophers a 4-3 victory and a sweep of the series. The No. 2 Gophers (26-7-5) rallied from a 3-1 deficit, scoring the game’s final three goals to advance to the semifinals of the WCHA Final Five next week at Xcel Energy Center.
After Bemidji State (6-22-8) went ahead 2-0 on goals by Jordan George and Cory Ward, Nick Bjugstad got the Gophers’ first at 15:33 of the second period on a power play. Jeff Jubinville answered only 14 seconds later to put Bemidji State up 3-1.
Nate Condon deflected in an Erik Haula shot with 1:06 left in the second period, and the Gophers tied it at 7:41 of the third when A.J. Michaelson got open in front of the net to score on a rebound.
Haula assisted on the first three goals for the Gophers, who outshot Bemidji State 41-22.
“That was a fun one,” Marshall said. “You’ve got to be able to bounce back when things aren’t going your way.”
Walsh picked up where he left off after Friday’s 2-1 overtime loss, stopping 12 first-period shots.
His teammates—who managed only three shots in Friday’s first period—generated eight, and George put one in on a well-executed power play.
With Nick Bjugstad in the penalty box for boarding, Radoslav Illo put the puck on net, and Ben Kinne poked at the rebound near the right post. The puck slid across to George, who popped it into the open side of the net at 16:49 of the first.
Ward tipped Sam Rendle’s point shot past Adam Wilcox at 9:27 of the second to put the Gophers in a 2-0 hole. But they kept the pressure on, and Bjugstad scored only seven seconds into their first power play, snapping in a nice feed from Kyle Rau on the opposite side of the goal.
The Beavers roared right back, as Jubinville backhanded a rebound past Wilcox to restore the two-goal lead.
With 1:06 left in the period, the Gophers scored the third goal of the final 4½ minutes to head to intermission trailing 3-2. Haula put the puck on net as Condon and Jake Areshenko wrestled in the slot, and the puck bounced off Condon and through Walsh’s pads.
The Gophers took command in the third, outshooting the Beavers 8-1 in the first nine minutes.
Michaelson tied the score when Walsh went to his knees to stop a Haula shot; the rebound went directly to Michaelson, who glided across to the right side and flicked the puck into the open net.
“They put their foot on the gas pedal in the last 15 minutes,” said Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore. “They got it done. That’s the sign of a championship team.”
The game was the last at Mariucci Arena of the Gophers’ tenure in the WCHA. Coach Don Lucia said he wasn’t thinking about that during the game, but he thought it a fitting conclusion.
“It’s just sinking in now,” he said. “[The last game] might as well be a classic one.’’