Gophers' third-period flurry brings swift end to Canisius upset bid
Top-seeded Minnesota scored eight unanswered goals to punctuate a first-round win over the Golden Griffins.
FARGO — Seventeen years after its infamous first-round upset loss to Holy Cross in Grand Forks, Minnesota made sure to avoid a repeat in the Peace Garden State against Canisius on Thursday.
The top-seeded Gophers scored eight unanswered goals after trailing in the second period to claim a 9-2 win over the Golden Griffins in front of a sellout crowd of 5,061 fans at Scheels Arena.
Minnesota will play St. Cloud State on Saturday for a spot at the Frozen Four.
"It was probably the closest 9-2 game I've ever seen," Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko said. "They have a 2-1 lead in the second and they're playing to their game plan.
"What I liked about us is we stuck to our game plan and kept getting pucks deep. We had to grind tonight because of how they were going to play."
Two goals on a five-minute power play — after a major penalty and game misconduct were called against Canisius' Stefano Bottini for contact to the head of the Gophers' Jackson LaCombe — early in the third period allowed Minnesota some breathing room after a tightly-contested opening 40 minutes.
"It was a 9-2 hockey game. You can't hide from that," Canisius head coach Trevor Large said. "It didn't feel like a 9-2 hockey game. It felt much closer."
Jimmy Snuggerud and Brody Lamb each scored on the five-minute advantage to give Minnesota a three-goal lead.
Four more goals before the end of the night, including a hat trick from Bryce Brodzinski after his first would-be goal was disallowed when a review showed it didn't cross the goal line, reminded the crowd — heavily partisan towards the closer to home team — of the firepower Minnesota has in its arsenal.
"[The third period penalty kill] kind of gave them [a chance to be] tired the rest of the game," Brodzinksi said, "and it showed after that five-minute major starting to take it up a little bit."
Minnesota trailed 2-1 after the Griffins took their first lead of the night on a beauty from Nick Bowman early in the second period. The graduate forward dizzied a Gopher defender before firing a shot off the left post and in to give Canisius the lead 3:23 into the middle stanza.
"When you go up at that point in the game you're pretty excited, but I knew we had to move on from it because they're a good team, too," Bowman said.
Aaron Huglen, a Roseau native who called Scheels Arena home for three seasons while with the USHL's Fargo Force, tied the game midway through the second on a slingshotted wrister past Barczewski's blocker.
"Really fun to be back in Fargo. I love it here," Huglen said. "It was a closer game than we would've liked, but we got it done."
A finish in front from Connor Kurth, despite a Griffin defender draped all over him, with 1:56 left in the second period punctuated a tremendous shift from the Minnesota third line, pushed the Gophers back in front with a 3-2 lead and, ultimately, was the winning goal.
In the first period, with two seconds left in their first power-play chance, the Gophers took the game's first lead when Luke Mittelstadt threw a shot from below the left circle off Canisius goalie Jacob Barczewski's leg pad and into the net.
It took only two and a half minutes for the Griffins to answer.
Seconds after Minnesota killed a penalty, Canisius' Daniel DiGrande one-timed a shot through Justen Close's five-hole to tie the game at one.
Minnesota will play two-seed St. Cloud State inside Scheels Arena Saturday at 5:30 p.m. for a spot in Tampa. The Gophers split a home-and-home series with the Huskies in early January.
"We played them this year. We get them on TV," Motzko said. "They're on a heater right now."
FIRST PERIOD: 1, MINN, Luke Mittlestadt (Koster, Brodzinski), PP, 6:08. 2, CAN, DiGrande (Decker, Bowman), 8:41.
SECOND PERIOD: 3, CAN, Bowman (Lambert), 3:23. 4, MINN, Huglen (Lamb, Pitlick), 8:15. 5, MINN, Kurth (Koster, Pitlick), 18:04.
THIRD PERIOD: 6, MINN, Snuggerud (Nelson, Cooley), PP, 1:10. 7, MINN, Lamb (Faber, Kurth), PP, 2:35. 8, MINN, Brodzinski (Cooley, Faber), 9:57. 9, MINN, Nevers (Cooley, LaCombe), PP, 12:28. 10, MINN, Brodzinski (John Mittelstadt), 12:50. 11, MINN, Brodzinski (unassisted), 19:03.
SHOTS: CAN, 6-9-5—20. MINN, 9-10-15—34.
SAVES: CAN, Barczewski (9-8-8—25). MINN, Close (5-8-5—18)
POWER PLAY: CAN, 0-for-4. MINN, 4-for-5.