ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota is a team with a lot of young players in key roles.
The whole team played like seasoned veterans on Sunday night and helped the Gophers get back to the Frozen Four.
2014 NCAA West Regional
Minnesota will be back in the Frozen Four two years after its last trip. When the Gophers advanced to Tampa in 2012 they won the regional that they hosted at the Xcel Energy Center — the same venue that this year’s event was played at.
Adam Wilcox made 24 saves for Minnesota, which will make its 21st appearance in the Frozen Four.
“It’s a thrill. I’ve been to a handful now, but for the guys that haven’t been there before to go through the heartache we went through last year losing in overtime and to come back this year and get back to Philadelphia is a real credit to our group of guys,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said.
Kloos got the Gophers on the board Sunday evening when he scored what turned out to be the only goal of a conservative opening period by both teams.
“You get to this stage and one thing you learn is that it’s not necessarily going to be a [horse race],” Lucia said. “You have to play controlled and wait for opportunities. We took care of the puck for the most part all weekend long and we limited our turnovers.
“The first goal was obviously big,” Lucia added. “Going through this tournament, it seems like every time I watched a game whoever scored the first goal won. It gives you that momentum.”
Just like in an overtime win over Notre Dame on Saturday, St. Cloud State struggled to get shots on frame in the first. Minnesota outshot St. Cloud 9-4 in the first.
“It was a difficult night for us to get anything going,” St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said. “We did in spurts. We had a couple chances early in the game where we missed the net. We got a little bit in the third period, then we took a penalty and that was it. You really to have to tip your hat to Minnesota; they played an outstanding game tonight.”
Seth Ambroz’s rebound goal early in the second period made it 2-0 for Minnesota. The junior’s goal was his 14th of the season and 28th of his collegiate career.
“That was the best that line has played in a while,” Lucia said. “Seth hadn’t scored a goal in a while and he scored the way that Seth Ambroz needs to score goals.”
Kloos struck again halfway through the game when he capped off a beautifully executed odd-man rush.
Taylor Cammarata led the Gophers’ break before dropping a pass back to senior Nate Condon. Condon instantly returned the puck to Cammarata, who whipped a cross-crease pass to Kloos. The freshman from Lakeville, Minn., had a wide-open net at which to shoot.
“We were on an odd-man rush and sometimes when they don’t have a strong gap we’ll make prettier plays like that,” Kloos said of his second goal. “I’ve got to give it to my line mates. All I had to do was tap it in.”
Condon, who had two assists in Sunday’s game to go along with his two goals from Saturday’s game, was named to the all-tournament team along with teammates Kloos, Brady Skjei, Mike Reilly and Wilcox and St. Cloud State’s Nic Dowd. Kloos was named the tournament’s most outstanding player.
Kloos’ second goal seemed to break the Huskies’ spirit. Motzko replaced Ryan Faragher with Charlie Lindgren after the goal.
“Faragher was awful sick two days ago and he was in the hospital and got a couple bags of fluid,” Motzko said. “He gutted it out [Saturday] and that’s why we got him out of there tonight. He gave us everything he had this weekend.”
Faragher was the hero of Saturday’s game against Notre Dame when he had 39 saves in the Huskies’ 4-3 overtime win. He had 12 saves on 15 shots in just more than 34 minutes of action on Sunday.
St. Cloud outshot Minnesota 11-10 in the second period, but the Gophers had the memorable chances and put two goals up on the board. The final shot total was 35-24 in favor of Minnesota.
Kyle Rau added a power-play goal near the midpoint of the third period. The junior picked up a rebound from a Reilly shot from the point.
St. Cloud State’s news conference was an emotional one after the game. Dowd, a senior forward, broke down after being asked a question.
Motzko jumped in and said that he disagreed with the NCAA’s policy to hold the losing team’s news conference 10 minutes after the game when the contest, in some cases, ends the collegiate careers for some players.
“That has to be changed,” Motzko said. “I told those guys [Dowd and fellow senior captain Kevin Gravel] they didn’t have to come and they said, ‘We will.’”
Minnesota’s win means that the Gophers will match up with longtime rival North Dakota in the Frozen Four.
“It’s fun, especially for the fans,” Lucia said. “They have a terrific program and in a lot of ways their team is just like ours. I haven’t seen them a lot, but I don’t have to throw in a tape to know how North Dakota plays.”