The fans came to see their hometown heroes, and the Minnesota Golden Gophers didn’t disappoint.
Grant Potulny netted two goals to give Minnesota an early lead, Adam Hauser stopped 27 shots, and the Gophers held off a furious Michigan rally to take the second semifinal, 3-2, at the Xcel Energy Center Thursday.
Jeff Taffe gave Minnesota a 3-0 lead early in the third period off a partial breakaway, but Michigan made it close at the end with two goals in the final seven minutes.
J.J. Swistak got Michigan on the board with a shorthander at 13:55 of the third period, joining a three-on-two rush and cutting across the slot before going five-hole to make it 3-1.
Then, with 1:34 left Jed Ortmeyer scored six-on-five — on a shot that appeared to bang off both Minnesota captain Jordan Leopold and Hauser before going in — and the Wolverines were suddenly very much alive.
That was it for the scoring, though, as Minnesota was able to keep the puck along the boards or out of the offensive zone for the last few seconds to seal the victory.
In the first period, Potulny gave Minnesota the lead when Wolverine Eric Werner tried to pass out of the Michigan zone from behind the net. Instead of clearing, Werner hit the skate of Taffe, forcing Michigan netminder Josh Blackburn to react quickly to stop the puck, which ricocheted back toward the Wolverine cage.
With Blackburn sprawled and the net empty, Potulny had an easy shot for the 1-0 lead at 4:20.
Early in the second, the Wolverines paid dearly for a too-many-men penalty, when Potulny notched his second of the evening, redirecting Jordan Leopold’s shot from the slot through Blackburn’s five-hole at 4:33, just 10 seconds after Jason Ryznar went to the box to sit for the infraction.
The rest of the middle stanza was a mix of bad blood and a goaltending duel, with both Blackburn and Hauser exchanging highlight-reel stops. At the end of the period, Michigan’s Eric Nystrom and Minnesota’s Matt Koalska were each assessed two minutes for hitting after the whistle when time expired.