LOVELAND, Colo. — Brock Faber had four assists, Mason Nevers scored twice, and Ben Meyers, Sampo Ranta, and Ryan Johnson each had a goal and an assist as Minnesota rolled over Omaha 7-2 Saturday night to advance to the final of the West Regional, where the Gophers will play Minnesota State Sunday.
The Gophers scored two goals in a 2:01 span late in the first to take command, and never trailed in the game.
“It feels awful good, but most important I’m really pleased with how we played tonight,” said Minnesota coach Bob Motzko. “I give our guys an enormous amount of credit.”
Nevers opened the scoring at 5:48 of the game when he picked up a rebound outside the crease to the right of Isaiah Saville and knocked it past him. It was Nevers’ first goal of his college career.
“It’s been coming all year,” said Motzko of Nevers. “He scores at will in practice. He’s going to be an outstanding player. He was just snakebit, but the lid came off tonight, and it was awesome to see.”
Jack Perbix made it 2-0 at 15:35 when he deflected Faber’s snap shot from the top of the right circle top corner.
“Every time you get a lead early, you put yourself in a good spot,” said Ranta. “It’s big every game, especially games like this. Getting off to a good start is key.”
Scott Reedy made it 3-0 at 17:36 on a perfect setup by Blake McLaughlin, who skated it in deep to the right faceoff dot and fed Reed streaking in from the top of the slot. Reedy beat Saville low to the blocker side.
“We knew they were going to be aggressive on their forecheck, and we felt we could get some odd-man rushes, and we did using our speed and using the boards,” said Motzko. “Some of the things we drew up, it doesn’t always work, but it did tonight.”
“We had a couple chances and we didn’t capitalize there,” said Omaha coach Mike Gabinet. “They are a team that will make you pay for your mistake. Give them one mistake they put it in the back of the net, give them another mistake they put it in the back of the net. That’s what a talented roster does. They capitalized on almost all their opportunities tonight.”
Omaha got one back just 28 seconds later from Taylor Ward to send them to the first intermission with hope, but the Gophers came out firing early in the second and Johnson made it 4-1 just 41 seconds in with a snap shot from the middle of the blue line that.
“There’s parts of our game I really liked tonight,” said Gabinet. “In the first period we had that empty-netter and we missed it and they come back and score. We had a grade A chance right before they got that one in the second, and those are tough when you’re trying to get back in the game and you get a good look and it doesn’t go in and they come right back and get a goal, so kind of the story of the night.”
Meyers made it 5-1 at 7:13, finishing off a great pass by Jackson Lacombe through the crease to Meyers at the right post. That was all on the night for Saville, who was replaced in net by Austin Roden.
It didn’t help, as Nevers made it 6-1 at 16:13. Ranta set the play up, driving down the right boards and toward the back of the net before passing it to Nevers out front who ripped it inside the left post.
Ward got his second of the night at 3:04 of the third, but Ranta almost immediately got it back when Jaxon Nelson carried the puck deep and fed Ranta on the left side of the slot, who ripped it short side at 4:17.