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Last Second Goal Sends Minnesota To National Final.
Posted by Rudy Martinez on Apr 10, 2014 - 8:31:18 PM

PHILADELPHIA—What looked to be like an unending battle for the final spot against Union on Saturday turned into an incredible finish with 60 minutes of college hockey. Justin Holl’s last second shot beat the buzzer to end the game and send the Minnesota Golden Gophers over the North Dakota Fighting Sioux 2-1 at Wells Fargo Arena Thursday night. It set Minnesota for their 13th appearance in the final where they met Union College on Saturday.


A bitter rivalry rekindled between two of the best hockey schools in the nation. North Dakota and Minnesota combined for 12 national titles with the Fighting Sioux winning seven of them. This year they face the number one Golden Gophers where they look to win their first championship since 2003. Although they might not have the best chance against them this year, the 282nd meeting becomes serious since their 1979 finals meeting.


The first period saw both teams playing even strength hockey where neither team found an advantage over the other at the start of the game. The Fighting Sioux caught the first power play where they attacked the net where Adam Wilcox made the saves to help his defense kill the penalty. Minnesota grabbed their turn in the middle of the period, but couldn’t break through Zane Gothberg. Both teams shot some of the closest scoring chances seen during the period, but none made their way behind the net. North Dakota outshot Minnesota 12-9 and held a slight lead on the wins at the faceoff, dot but the score remained unchanged.

The Golden Gophers dog pile on center ice after defeating the North Dakota Fighting Sioux on Thursday.


Minnesota charged into the second snapping a few scoring chances on the net, but Gothberg continued to be stellar in the crease where he stopped a shot from Mike Reilly and Seth Ambroz for back to back saves. All the credit couldn’t go his way as the defense made blocked shots in the zone that held back Minnesota’s relentless charge against them. Time fell off the clock as the period expired with the score still anyone’s to win. The Fighting Sioux and Golden Gophers shot 12 shots each indicating that the third period would be the last chance for either one to win.


The third started with neither team giving an inch of vulnerability to feed to the other. Shots continued to record for Minnesota and North Dakota, but had yet to score a goal on each other. Both goaltenders combined for 53 shots on net as North Dakota began to falter seeing 23 of those. With nine minutes to go, the game finally saw a change in score when Kyle Rau took a shot. He then went around the net for a wrap around where he missed and gave the opportunity to teammate Sam Warning who notched his 13th. With the lead in their hands a chance to hold the lead had a slight possibility until the unthinkable happened. Just 32 seconds later they saw North Dakota tie the game on Connor Gaarder’s ninth of the season where his previous shot on a small window rebounded for his second try to edge through Wilcox to send the game back to a stalemate. Gaarder is remembered for scoring in the triple overtime game against Ferris St in the regional final.


Before the game could g to overtime, the Fighting Sioux picked up a huge power play where it could become the deciding factor. Before the game was on its way to extra periods Rau’s shot went off the skate of Jordan Schmaltz to bounce over to Holl next to him taking an unbelievable shot that went off the inside of the post and to the back of the net just as the buzzer went off. “There was nine seconds left on the draw in our zone so we were just trying to get it out and it came to me and realized there was an opportunity for a rush so I gave it to Rau and figured there was three seconds left so I might as well jump in and I think the puck went off one of their players off my skate to my stick and blacked out from there,” said Holl who scored his first of the entire season.


The Minnesota squad ran onto the ice in celebration while officials reviewed the play. After a minute of checks and balances and the Fighting Sioux looking completely stunned, it was called a good goal ending the game and breaking the hearts of the North Dakota team. There was still 0.6 seconds remaining in the game which became excruciating for the Fighting Sioux, as players on the bench including Dillon Simpson (the son of CBC’s Craig Simpson) were on the ice completely upset. The feeling rushed through all the remaining members of teammates still on the ice as Gothberg who couldn’t get up finally rose to his feet where Mark MacMillian and others came to console him.  


The agony of defeat came at a price no one wishes to accept, but a winner must move on and it became the Golden Gophers’ chance to win their first title in 11 years. “It was a really tense game and a huge rivalry between these two teams,” Holl said about North Dakota. “You got to give them credit because they gave us a heck of a game.” When asked what it meant for Minnesota  to go on to the finals the game winning scorer spoke of endurance among the team. “I think it shows that we are resilient,” he said. “They had a lot of chances but we just kept fighting and fighting and I think its good momentum to take to the national championship.”


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