Notebook: Buzzer beater believed to be latest regulation winner in Frozen Four history

Minnesota celebrates its win over North Dakota and a spot in the national championship game (photo: Melissa Wade).

PHILADELPHIA — When people think of buzzer beaters in the NCAA tournament, they normally think of the fantastic finishes in the NCAA basketball tournament.

Though no official records are kept on the latest game-winning goal scored in regulation, it’s believed that Minnesota’s Justin Holl’s goal with 0.6 seconds remaining was the latest such tally scored in Frozen Four history.

2014 Frozen Four

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Not only did the game look like it was headed to overtime, just seconds earlier it looked like it might have ended when North Dakota got a great tip on a shot that was saved and swallowed by Minnesota goaltender Adam Wilcox.

“I think momentum was kind of, I guess you could say, in our hands,” said North Dakota’s Stephane Pattyn. “A couple of close calls, a couple of good saves by their goalie, and the puck going the other way, just hit a couple of skates, hit a couple of sticks, and it was in the back of our net. There’s not much more I could say.”

To add to the rarity of the goal, it was the first of the season by Holl, a senior defenseman who hadn’t scored since March 8, 2013, against Bemidji State.

“There’s no better time for Justin to score his first than tonight,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “But that’s our team. We haven’t relied on any one guy. A new guy has to step forward every night.”

“Honestly, at that point in the game I was focused on getting the shot on goal because I knew there was hardly any time left,” Holl said of the goal. “The puck came to the stick and I wanted to get it on net. And fortunately it went to the right place.”

And if Gophers fans are looking for a good omen, that goal against the Beavers was the second straight game that Holl scored that season. Could there be another in his stick for Saturday’s final?

Breaking down the rivalry

There have been plenty of great games in the history of the Minnesota-North Dakota rivalry, but few that have endings that can match that of Thursday’s national semifinal.

Breaking down the rivalry, North Dakota and Minnesota had met 290 times prior to Thursday with the Gophers holding a 145-130 lead in the series with 15 ties. Thursday, however, was only the fifth NCAA tournament meeting between the two teams and just the third time they’ve met in the Frozen Four.

In 1979, Minnesota defeated North Dakota 4-3 in the national title game to capture the school’s third title. Neal Broten, two years before winning the first Hobey Baker Award, scored the game-winning goal.

It would be 26 years before the two school met again in the NCAA tournament, this time in the national semifinals at the 2005 Frozen Four in Columbus. In a tournament memorable for being the all-WCHA Frozen Four, North Dakota jumped out to a 4-0 lead en route to a 4-2 win. Two nights later, the then-Fighting Sioux fell to Denver in the finals.

Two years later, the two clubs played an epic game in the NCAA regional final in Denver, with Chris Porter scoring on a wraparound to deliver a 3-2 victory and a trip to the Frozen Four. North Dakota lost to Boston College 6-4 in the national semifinal.

The most recent NCAA tournament matchup for the teams came just two years ago in St. Paul, Minn., when Minnesota skated to a 5-2 win in the West Regional final to head to the Frozen Four. The Gophers lost to eventual national champion Boston College in the national semifinals.

Lucia looking for third title with Gophers

• Don Lucia is looking for his third national title as coach of Minnesota. He’s 2-0 in the national title game, with the Gophers winning back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003.

• Minnesota finished the game with a remarkable 30 blocked shots.

• Minnesota and Union have played three times previously, the Gophers holding a 2-1 series lead. It will be the first time the teams have met in an NCAA tournament. That said, all three meetings came in a tournament setting — the Mariucci Classic. Minnesota won the first meeting on Dec. 29, 2000, 3-2. They defeated the Dutchmen 8-0 on the same date in 2005. Union, however, won the last meeting on New Year’s Eve 2010, 3-2 in overtime.

• North Dakota was the first team to hold Minnesota scoreless through two periods this season.