Union-Minnesota NCAA hockey final pregame report
Good evening from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, where the NCAA hockey champion will be decided as the top-ranked Union Dutchmen take on second-ranked Minnesota.
The Dutchmen (31-6-4) are third overall seed in the tournament. They are in the national championship game for the first time in their Division I history. Union played in the 1984 Division III championship, losing to Babson, 8-0.
“It’s great for the school, it’s great for the program,” Dutchmen senior defenseman Mat Bodie said Friday. “It’s great for players and everyone involved to get to this point. As far as winning it, it would be huge. I don’t really know if you can put it into words, but it would just be huge for everyone involved.”
Union beat Boston College, 5-4, in Thursday’s semifinal. Daniel Ciampini had a hat trick in the game. The Dutchmen killed off a five-minute major power play and then scored right after that on a Mike Vecchione goal.
The one thing Dutchmen coach Rick Bennett didn’t like about that game was his team getting out of its rhythm after taking a 2-1 lead in the second period. BC tied it late in the second on a Steve Santini goal.
“We just can’t get caught up in a track-meet type of hockey game,” Bennett said. “We have to stick to our structure and see how it goes [tonight], because it’s so easy to say it to the guys before we go out on to the ice, but they just have to buy into it.”
The Gophers (28-6-6) are the top seed in the tournament. They had a battle with North Dakota in their semifinal game. After a scoreless 40 minutes, Minnesota took the lead on a Sam Warning goal at 10:51 of the third period. But 32 seconds later, Connor Gaarder tied it for North Dakota.
North Dakota got a power play with 1:39 left when Mike Reilly was called for holding. The game appeared headed to overtime when the Gophers had one final rush. Kyle Rau’s shot was blocked, but the puck went to Justin Holl. His shot from the left circle hit the right post and went into the net with 0.6 seconds left to give the Gophers the win.
The Gophers, the Big Ten regular-season champions, have a balanced offensive attack with five players having at least 30 points. They are led by Rau, who has 14 goals and 25 assists. Rau also leads the team in power-play goals with seven, and game-winners with six.
Minnesota’s other 30-point scorers are forward Warning (33 points), defenseman Reilly (32), forward Travis Boyd (31) and forward Justin Kloos (30). Kloos is the Gopher’s top goal scorer with 15.
Adam Wilcox is solid in goal. He is 26-5-6 with a 1.86 goals-against average, a .935 save percentage and four shutouts.
The last time these two teams met, Union pulled out a 3-2 overtime win on Dec. 31, 2010, in the Mariucci Classic.
“In that game I said, you know what, that’s a darn good hockey team,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “Then they went on that run the last few years, and they’ve been tremendous.”
And now, Union can complete that run with a national championship.
Daniel Carr/Mike Vecchione/Daniel Ciampini
Matt Wilkins/Eli Lichtenwald/Nick Cruice
Matt Hatch/Max Novak/Kevin Sullivan
Cole Ikkala/Sam Coatta/Michael Pontarelli
Mat Bodie/Sebastien Gingras
Shayne Gostisbehere/Jeff Taylor
Charlie Vasaturo/Noah Henry
Colin Stevens starts in goal.
Sam Warning/Kyle Rau/Hudson Fasching
Nate Condon/Justin Kloos/Taylor Cammarata
Tom Serratore/Travis Boyd/Seth Ambroz
Connor Reilly/Gabe Guertler/Vinni Lettieri
Brady Skjei/Justin Holl
Mike Reilly/Jake Parenteau
Ben Marshall/Michael Brodzinski
Wilcox starts in goal.
Twitter and hashtags
Follow me on Twitter @slapschotts. The hashtags for the game are #UnionHockey, #GopherHockey, #ECACHockey and #FrozenFour. If you have questions before, during and after the game, please ask. I will try to reply as quickly as possible.
Enjoy the game!