Gophers cruise past Robert Morris and into West Regional final
By Andy Greder
St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL -- When the Gophers hockey team flexed its way to a 3-0 lead after one period Saturday, it seemed as if Robert Morris would need the mythical powers of Chuck Norris to pull out a beefy upset in their NCAA West Regional semifinal game at the Xcel Energy Center.
The top-seeded Gophers are undefeated when they score three goals (21-0-2 before Saturday’s game), and the surprising tournament entrant named after the millionaire Revolutionary War financier would need to call in reinforcements.
Like the time Norris, the 1990s TV star of “Walker, Texas Ranger,” supposedly “counted to infinity — twice.”
Jokes aside, Robert Morris was left to fend for itself, and the math got worse as the Gophers cruised to a 7-3 win.
Minnesota (26-6-6) advanced to face the winner of Saturday’s late semifinal between St. Cloud State and Notre Dame. The West Regional final will be at 6:30 p.m. today.
No. 16 seed Robert Morris, which rebooted its season after a 2-12-2 start to finish 19-18-5, was overmatched from the opening faceoff. The Gophers had five shots on goal in the first 90 seconds and finished with a 50-25 advantage.
Consecutive penalties on the Gophers — including 21 seconds of a 5-on-3 — briefly leveled the ice.
“Oh, my gosh, that’s how last year’s game started,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said in reference to Minnesota’s NCAA first-round exit to Yale. “I think Nate (Condon’s) goal relaxed everybody a bit, … and then we seized control of the game.”
Condon’s goal came at 16:13 and was quickly followed by goals by Michael Brodzinski (17:50) and Justin Kloos (19:43) to close out the period.
Kyle Rau made it 4-0 at 8:12 in the second period. The Gophers outshot the Colonials 22-10 in the period. Lucia thought his team could have scored more goals, but Colonials freshman goalie Dalton Izyk stepped up to make 21 saves.
“When you spot a team a 4-0 lead, it’s really easy for that game to get away from you, and that game did not get away from us,” Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley said.
The Colonials’ top scorer, Cody Wydo, got one back at 13:48 in the second. It was his 31st goal of the season.
In the final minute of the second period, Zac Lynch cut the Gophers’ lead to 4-2. The resilient Colonials didn’t go away.
Hudson Fasching made it 5-2 Gophers at 14:21 in the third period, but the Colonials again made it a two-goal game when David Friedmann scored 25 seconds later.
The Gophers opened it up when Nate Condon netted a short-handed empty-net goal at 18:12. Mike Reilly made it 7-3 at 18:53.
“Everyone contributed, which you have to have this time of year,” Lucia said.
The West Regional winner will face North Dakota in the Frozen Four on April 10 in Philadelphia. North Dakota beat Ferris State 2-1 in overtime Saturday night in the Midwest Regional final.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.