ST. PAUL, Minn. — Goals by Seth Helgeson and Jake Hansen 29 seconds apart late in a penalty-marred second period for Minnesota snapped a 2-2 tie with Boston University and the Gophers kept the Terriers at bay for a 7-3 win in their NCAA West Regional semifinal on Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center.
With just under five minutes left in the second period of what had been a see-saw battle, Zach Budish fed Helgeson from the right corner and the junior defenseman fired over Boston University goaltender Kieran Millan’s outstretched glove to put the Gophers in front for the third and final time.
Just nine seconds later, Boston University’s Justin Courtnall received a major contact to the head penalty and the requisite game misconduct for a hit he delivered to Minnesota defenseman Nate Schmidt.
A mere 20 seconds into the man advantage, Hansen redirected Schmidt’s blast from the blue line past Millan for the eventual game winner.
“It was a bizarre game,” said Boston University coach Jack Parker. “At times, both teams had good territorial advantages and both teams looked OK. I thought Minnesota had the best of it as the night progressed.”
The win earns Minnesota (27-13-1) a spot in tomorrow’s regional final against North Dakota and ensures the WCHA a spot in the Frozen Four.
A win over UND, a team that scored six unanswered goals to beat the Gophers 6-3 last weekend in the WCHA’s Final Five tournament, will send the Gophers to their first Frozen Four since 2005.
“Our coaches did a great job because after that loss [last Friday], everyone was really down,” said Hansen. “We had one thing on our minds [tonight], and that was beating BU.”
Minnesota coach Don Lucia said he was proud of his players, especially for the week of preparation they put in after the North Dakota loss, and like Parker, saw a mostly back-and-forth game.
“We talked about there was going to be ebbs and flows to the game tonight, and there was,” said Lucia. “But tonight, we were able to answer. Any time we got punched, we were able to punch back.”
Freshman Kyle Rau also scored for Minnesota and added a pair of assists as the Gophers received scoring contributions from a trio of less likely sources in defensemen Jake Parenteau and Helgeson and forward Nico Sacchetti.
Minnesota goalie Kent Patterson made 31 saves for his and his team’s 27th victory of the season.
Defenseman Adam Clendening scored a power-play goal and added an assist for Boston University (23-15-1), while Millan turned aside 35 Minnesota shots.
Each team was whistled for nine penalties for a combined 47 minutes overall, with 31 of those on 10 second-period infractions alone, meaning over 40 percent of the game (24:32) was played on special teams, but the power-play units weren’t much of a factor with Boston University 2-for-7 and Minnesota 2-for-8 with the man advantage.
Parker said he thought the game was well-officiated but as far as his own team was concerned, he did have a problem with where those calls were made.
“We took three penalties in the offensive zone tonight,” said Parker. “One hundred and eighty feet from your net, you should not be taking penalties.”
Minnesota led 1-0 after one period on Rau’s goal off of a scramble around the BU net, but the Terriers bounced back on Wade Megan’s power-play goal early in the second when Clendening’s shot off the right post hit Patterson in the back and dropped in the crease where Megan slapped it home to tie it a one apiece.
Parenteau’s shot from the top of the left circle just inside the far post put the Gophers back in front less than two minutes later but again, BU responded with Ross Gaudet’s even-strength goal at 13:20 and the game was knotted at two.
After the second-period parade to the penalty box, the third was far more subdued in that regard, but the Terriers made the Gophers pay for one of their two final-period transgressions.
Seven seconds after Minnesota’s Justin Holl went off for hooking at the 3:02 mark, Clendening fired a shot from the right point that squeezed through Patterson and the deficit was cut to one.
“Any time it seemed like we had some momentum, it seemed like they got a goal and countered,” said Gaudet. “I thought we came out in the third period pretty decently.”
This time was no different as the Gophers answered with a breakaway goal by Sacchetti. The senior forward, playing in just his 22nd game of the season, scored his fourth of the year at 8:08 of the third to restore Minnesota’s two-goal cushion.
Hansen and Nick Bjugstad added empty-net goals in the final two minutes for the game’s final margin.
Lucia called Sacchetti’s goal “huge” and was pleased about the production from his less-heralded scorers on the night.
“One of the differences for our team tonight was that we did score some goals from other than the guys that we rely on,” said Lucia. “You just can’t rely on your key guys. Some guys have to step forward and score a big goal this time of the year.”
“Clearly, our top-end guys have got to be scoring game in and game out,” said Hansen. “For Nico to score that breakaway goal, that really turned the game.”