Quantcast
Feature

College Hockey:
Frozen Four preview: Minnesota players experiencing, thriving at new levels of postseason

Taylor Matson has never played a hockey game in Florida.

“I’ve actually been there for a family vacation once but I never played hockey,” Matson said.

2012ff 250 white Frozen Four preview: Minnesota players experiencing, thriving at new levels of postseason

For complete Frozen Four coverage, visit USCHO's Frozen Four Central.

Added teammate Erik Haula: “I was there for Christmas at my dad’s condo. I’ve never played hockey there. I’ve been to a couple [Tampa Bay] Lighting games.”

New experiences have been a theme for Minnesota this postseason. Not one player on this season’s roster played in a national tournament game, and when they made their regional debut last week, they shined.

The Gophers, in their first national tournament since 2008, took down Boston University 7-3 and North Dakota 5-2 to punch their ticket to their first Frozen Four since 2005. Minnesota faces top overall seed Boston College at 8 p.m. EDT in Thursday’s semifinals in Tampa, Fla.

Freshman Travis Boyd was put in a position he was unfamiliar with going into the regional. An occasional healthy scratch throughout the season with no goals and six assists, he was bumped up to the third line before the BU game and recorded an assist. Sunday, he scored the first goal of his collegiate career to make it 4-1 over UND and assisted on Nate Condon’s goal that sealed the win.

“Travis is a very skilled freshman,” Matson said. “It was great for him to get that goal and it’s a great confidence booster for him. He’s been dishing me and [Nate] Condon the puck a little bit more and our line has great chemistry right now.”

Secondary scoring was a key in the regional for Minnesota. Four forwards — Matson, Boyd, Condon and Nico Sacchetti — scored a goal each. Three non-traditional scoring defensemen — Seth Helgeson, Ben Marshall and Jake Parenteau — scored as well.

Those seven players scored a combined 28 goals through the WCHA Final Five.

“We try to use our depth up front and in the back,” Sacchetti said. “As you saw, our blue line got some really important goals for us. It’s a team game. When someone doesn’t score that you expect to, you have to have secondary scoring.”

Minnesota’s top six forwards will need to step up and take charge Thursday against a loaded and balanced BC team that features first-round draft pick Chris Kreider (23-21–44), Johnny Gaudreau (20-22–42) and Barry Almeida (22-16–38). Those are the Eagles’ top three scorers and they play on three different lines.

BC is ranked sixth nationally, scoring 3.5 goals per game.

“BC has a lot of skill and talent,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “They’re the favorite and they can really transition the puck and push the pace offensively. Taking care of the puck is very important.”

The nation’s top offensive team: Minnesota at 3.67 goals per game.

Nick Bjugstad was the go-to guy on the Gophers’ offense for two thirds of the season before he suffered an upper-body injury, keeping him from going to the high-traffic area in front of the net where he scored a lot of goals this season.

He still leads Minnesota in goals with 25 but gave up the lead in points to Haula, who’s been coming on strong in the past few weeks. Haula (20-28–48) has 11 points over a six-game scoring streak. Bjugstad (25-17–42) has scored only twice since he suffered the injury, and one of the goals was an empty-netter.

Freshman Kyle Rau has played a key role with 18 goals and 25 assists this season. His presence around the net is hard to contain because, despite his small frame, he’s strong on his skates and can score in the dirty areas while he takes a check.

Jake Hansen has 15 goals and 22 assists on the second line with Haula, and Nate Schmidt is a good quarterback for the Minnesota offense from the blue line with 38 assists. He’s arguably the best offensive defenseman in the country.

Schmidt has been a part of rejuvenated defense that has helped goaltender Kent Patterson win the WCHA’s goaltending champion award with a 2.23 goals against average and a .911 save percentage.

“Kent’s been our pillar,” Lucia said. “He’s given us a chance to win every night this season.”


The following is a self-policing forum for discussing views on this story. Comments that are derogatory, make personal attacks, are abusive, or contain profanity or racism will be removed at our discretion. USCHO.com is not responsible for comments posted by users. Please report any inappropriate or offensive comments by clicking the “Flag” link next to that comment in order to alert the moderator.

Please also keep “woofing,” taunting, and otherwise unsportsmanlike behavior to a minimum. Your posts will more than likely be deleted, and worse yet, you reflect badly on yourself, your favorite team and your conference.

  • Mcherls

    your going down

    • hockey21

       Learn how to spell, dumbass.  And yes, you’re going down.

    • Mr Hockey

      Hooked on phonics worked for you!

      • Internet Tough Guy

         best comment of the yr..

        • nogofer

          No one on this year’s gofer team ever won a national tournament game…

  • Goldy

    Just need to keep playing the way they have been playing the last 5&2/3 games

    • Scott Reed

      The weight of the WCHA is on your shoulders… bring it home and tie up our states!

  • Mr Hockey

    I’ll just say this as a Gopher fan. If the Gophers dump 30 shots on Milner they’ll win. This would mean that all 4 lines are playing and Minnesota would be dictating the play. Will this happen? I don’t know. All I can say for certain is the Gophers have the talent to beat BC, one never knows what will happen or how college kids will play from game to game.

    • Internet Tough Guy

      I think both of these FF games are going to be close.. 

      AND – if that is the case, it will come down to big time goalie play and coverting power plays into goals…

  • MN Fan

    Time to Unleash the ‘Rau’ser. 

    M – I – N – N – E – S – O – T – A!
    Minnesota!
    Minnesota!
    Yeaaaaaaah Gophers!

    • DirtyVarmints

      Minnesota isn’t one syllable

  • Mike

    Gophs.

  • David

    Minn. has the talent but BC wins this, they’re better defensively and they have speed to match…they’ll be patient, keep shooting, score and then capitalize on gopher mistakes as they play catch up

    • Irish Spectre

      “…keep shooting…”  I hope so!

      Sometimes I almost think that BC is TOO laden with stick skills; the guys are so enamored of their own ability to move the puck that they don’t pull the trigger often enough.

    • Mr Hockey

      Don’t under estimate the Gophers defensive play. They might not have a well known group but they’re pretty solid. The Gophers don’t make too many mistakes, a thing to watch for from the Gophers stand point is, if they come out hitting. If they come out and throw some checks early this will be a tell on whether or not they came to play. I suspect they will come out hitting.

    • phoenixfyre1313

      Seems that you haven’t seen a lot of Gopher games.  They are evenly matched across the board.  In one area that everyone seems to be conceeding to BC, the Gophers have excelled in all season and that is on defense.  The Gophers have been in the top 5 defensively and in goaltending all season,  This game will likely come down to special team play or a fortunate bounce.  Should be a great game.

    • 2012 National Champs

      Seriously?  BC has 2 or 3 Scoring threats.  Minnesota is going to kick the sh*! out of BC – that BC crap is so overplayed.  Honestly, this should be the championship game — I mean, a AA Minnesota High School team could beat Union.  We do have the best high school hockey in the country……oh yeah i almost forgot……BC Eats D!@$ — have fun tomorraw…… 

  • keppelfinga

    lets go gophers!! they need to play the best they can be b/c BC is downright fast and talented, at least they played that way against UMD.

  • beefheart

    Make ‘em choke on their chowdah, those high-brow eastern brats. Gophers 5-3. Is it Thursday YET???

    • Minnesota Nice?

       Should BC make the Gophers choke on their hotdish, those passive aggressive, fake Midwesterners (i.e., Minnesota Ice, no nice).

      • beefheart

        Oooooo I am so mad now I am going to go say thank-you to a stranger but I’ll really just mean not thank-you. Gophers 5-3. Enjoy the game, my friend from the east.

      • jmsptrk

        My mom said we’re nice, so it must be true.

      • Goldy

        I love hotdish!

      • Jason

        mmm hotdish, you’re really missing out.

    • Internet Tough Guy

      no kidding – can we just play the game already..

  • Leggs2

    Rodents…

  • WIBS04

    Tyler, no way you can possibly say Nate Schmidt is even arguably the best offensive defenseman in the country. That title, no question, applies to Justin Schultz as long as he’s in school.

    • Jason

      Justin-44 points, Nate-41 points. It’s not clear cut by any means.

  • Goldy goofer

    Watching all these kentucky wildcat fans celebrate a national championship sure is getting me excited for this weekend. I really respect BC but I’m not scared to play them. I think my “rodents” have a good chance and I am excited for thursday. Go goldy, lets do some “rau”sers