ST. PAUL, MN - APRIL 07: : Kenny Reiter #35 of the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs stops a shot by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during semifinals of the 2011 NCAA Men's Frozen Four on April 7, 2011 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 4-3. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Frozen Four 2012: Minnesota Golden Gophers Now Set Sights On Championship

The Minnesota Golden Gophers advanced through the weekend with a pair of victories, securing themselves a spot in the 2012 Frozen Four.

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NCAA Hockey Tournament 2012: Minnesota Frozen Four Bound With 5-2 Win Over North Dakota

It doesn't happen often but for the Minnesota Golden Gophers the sequel was far, far better than the original.

Nine days after North Dakota scored six unanswered goals to beat the Gophers en route to their third straight Broadmoor Trophy, Minnesota defeated them 5-2 in the West Regional Final at the Xcel Energy Center Sunday. Five different Gopher players scored goals and Kent Patterson (Colorado Avalanche) was named most outstanding player while making 24 saves.

"I am really proud and happy for our guys. We had such a long season with ups and downs, peaks and valleys," said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. "You have to stick with it and this team has all year. We knew we had a very difficult region. Tobeat programs like Boston University and North Dakota is very rewarding."

It is the first Frozen Four berth for Minnesota since 2005 and 20th overall. They will face the winner of Minnesota Duluth-Boston College Thursday April 5th at 7 p.m. Central in Tampa. Florida.

Unlike last Friday, North Dakota played hard in the first period and had the better shots on goal during the first ten minutes. Minnesota's aggressive forecheck was a little too aggressive - allowing for Michael Parks (Philadelphia Flyers) to split the two defensemen - but he and the rest of the team were unable to take advantage.

It wasn't until Ben Marshall (Detroit Red Wings) received a pass from redshirt sophomore Zach Budish (Nashville Predators) shot a laser past UND goalie Aaron Dell 12:19 into the game that someone was able to get on the board. That was the only goal of the first period but it changed the course of the game because North Dakota began to play back on their heels more and more.

"(Minnesota) played a good game out there; they had a ton of energy," said North Dakota's Corban Knight (Florida Panthers). "It is just one of those things where maybe they had a little puck luck and were able to find some balances and find the back of the net, and we were not able to do that tonight."

The Gophers added a second goal twenty seconds into the 2nd period. Having 1:03 left over from a Carter Rowney penalty, Erik Haula (Minnesota Wild) was left alone in front of Dell and made UND pay with his 20th goal of the year. It was short-lived, however, as Danny Kristo (Montreal Canadiens) took advantage of a weird bounce off the glass in front of the Minnesota zone and cut the lead in half 2-1. For a minute it looked as if history could repeat itself.

"Yeah you know we wanted to get that last game out of our system against North Dakota," senior captain Taylor Matson (Vancouver Canucks) said. We had a pep talk with our team we went back to work this week in order to get ready for BU and then North Dakota. Words don't describe North Dakota, if you can't get up for that game you can't get up for anything."

Matson was evidently fired up because Minnesota refused to take their foot off the gas. Kristo's shot was the only one UND had goal until the final seconds of the period. By that time it was 4-1 Gophers after the senior scored his eighth goal of the year trailing the play and putting home a rebound and linemate Travis Boyd (Washington Capitals) tipped in his first career goal as a Gopher.

"I think (Minnesota) played a pretty good, consistent game," North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol said. "Had we been able to push that to a 2-2 game or take a one-goal game into the third period, it would've been different."

While Haula and Jake Hansen created a few chances in the second period, the third line of Matson, Boyd and Nate Condon (Colorado) played especially well during that stretch and seemed to find their groove after being a non-factor in the Gophers' recent streak.

"Travis is a very skilled freshman," Matson said about Boyd. "He was dishing the puck to me and Nate Condon the puck and we were getting some great chances. We had great chemistry throughout the game and that's great for our line to get the three goals tonight."

Condon's goal, which came after a stretch of play that saw UND really testing Patterson, put the game on ice with 4:07 left. Mario Lamoureux tipped in a goal 14 seconds later to make it 5-2 but despite Hakstol pulling the goalie with 3 minutes left it was all North Dakota could muster.

"We didn't expect for it to end tonight," said Hakstol after the game. "I thought we had a good push to start the third period. It just wasn't enough tonight."

All in all Sunday was another solid performance from Minnesota a week after folding under the pressure. As much as it starts in net with Patterson, the defense only gave up one goal to the potent Brock Nelson (New York Islanders) - Knight - Kristo line and stopped one of the hotter offenses in college hockey. The Gophers saw their own first line shut down but it didn't matter as they found goals up and down the lineup.

Frankly they played like a team who deserves to go to Tampa. Beating their rival to end their season is just icing on the cake.

"(Winning the West Region) was one of the goals from the start of the season," Haula said. One was to win the MacNaughton Cup, which we did. One was to win the Final Five, which we didn't get, and to get to the Frozen Four is a great accomplishment. But as a team we're not satisfied with that. We want to keep playing good hockey and keep going all the way."

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NCAA Hockey Tournament 2012: Gophers Defeat Boston U 7-3; Face UND Sunday

In the 2004 movie "Miracle," there's a scene where a Boston University and a Minnesota player get into a fight during a Team USA scrimmage. While the two teams were hated rivals in the 1970s - especially due to the Gophers' 1976 national championship win - Saturday's game in 2012 fits right in.

In a penalty-filled game at the Xcel Energy Center that saw the two teams combine for 47 penalty minutes, Minnesota defeated Boston University 7-3 Saturday. Jake Hansen (Columbus Blue Jackets) scored twice for the Gophers and Kent Patterson (Colorado Avalanche) made 31 saves as the team won their first NCAA Tournament game since 2007.

They face North Dakota Sunday at 4:30 in the West Region final for a Frozen Four berth in Tampa. UND beat Western Michigan 3-1 earlier in the day.

Kyle Rau (Florida Panthers), who scored the first goal for Minnesota last game, did so again 5:55 into the game when he found the puck in front of the net after Terriers goalie Kieran Millan (Colorado) could not control the rebound.

"It seems to be an open spot and I just look tor some open ice [in front of the net] because obviously I am a smaller guy," Rau said of his 18th goal of the season. "I will just get knocked down and out-muscled, so I just have to find the open ice around the net and it has been open most of the time. Hopefully I get a couple tomorrow like that."

It was the only goal of the first period but both teams had their chances with the man advantage. Boston University were unable to take advantage of four power plays before Wade Megan (Florida) buried an Adam Clendening (Chicago Blackhawks) shot off the post to tie the game at 1 less than 8 minutes into the second.

Megan's goal set off a six-minute stretch where the goal judges were kept busy. Jake Parenteau scored his second goal of the season on a wrister to give Minnesota a 2-1 lead and then promptly gave the puck away to BU's Ross Gaudet to tie the game back up at 2. It was followed by two power play goals by Seth Helgeson (New Jersey Devils and Hansen on two separate penalties in 29 seconds to end the second period up 4-2.

"Any time it seemed like we had some momentum, it seemed like they got a goal and countered," said Gaudet.

BU came out strong in the third, scoring an early power play goal to get within one, but that was as close as they got. Clendening, who was the Terriers' best player on the ice, scored his 4th goal of the season on a slap shot 7 seconds into yet another Minnesota penalty kill (their tenth of eleven Saturday afternoon).

The Gophers blew a three goal lead last weekend against North Dakota but made sure they didn't do it again. Minnesota, who has been one of the best third period teams in college hockey this season, showed why against Boston University, out-shooting them 19-13. As a team they kept winning puck battles in the corners and guys like Nate Condon were out-muscling Terrier defensemen for pucks behind the net.

Nico Sacchetti (Dallas Stars) scored on a rush 8:08 into the third period to make the score 5-3 and Hansen and Nick Bjugstad added empty-netter goals for the final score.

In the end, Minnesota-Boston University was a "bizarre game," as legendary BU coach Jack Parker put it. At times it resembled old-time hockey with chippy penalties and scraps after the whistle while others showcased speed on both ends and quality open ice play. Honestly, it's too bad these teams don't play each other more often because there would be more scenes like the one in "Miracle."

For more NCAA Hockey tournament coverage, you can also follow SB Nation Boston for the BU side of the game and SB Nation's NHL hub for a national college hockey perspective.

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Frozen Four 2012: Minnesota's Kent Patterson Shares Similarities With BU's Millan

One of the big reasons for the Minnesota Golden Gophers' success this season is getting solid goaltending from senior Kent Patterson. They will need something similar to Patterson's fellow Colorado Avalanche prospect (and current BU senior) Kieren Millan in 2009 if Minnesota wants to punch their ticket to Tampa for the Frozen Four.

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Frozen Four 2012: Brackets Unveiled, Minnesota Faces Boston University In First Round

The road to Tampa for the 2012 Frozen Four has been unveiled and for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, they must go through the Boston University Terriers.

For the first time since 2008, Minnesota is in the NCAA Hockey Tournament. As the West Regional hosts, the #2 seed Gophers will play close to home at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul against #3 seed Boston University Saturday March 24th at 4 p.m. Central. The winner of that game faces the winner of #1 North Dakota and #4 Western Michigan Sunday March 25th at 4:30 p.m. Central for a Frozen Four berth.

Defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth also made the tournament and will play against Maine Saturday March 24th at 6:30 p.m. Central.

Despite the Gophers having home-ice advantage, the West regional is the toughest of the four regions. It features the CCHA tournament winner (Western Michigan), WCHA regular season (Minnesota) and tournament champions (North Dakota) and a Boston University team which spent much of the season in the top-five. Even if they beat the Terriers in the first round, there's a good chance Minnesota will play the last team that beat them, North Dakota.

The other three regionals are in Worcester, Massachusetts (Northeast), Green Bay, Wisconsin (Midwest) and Bridgeport, Connecticut (East). As of right now the West Regional games are aired on tape-delay or online at ESPN3 but there's a chance Fox Sports North picks up the syndication rights.

The full bracket is included below (via College Hockey News).

Frozen_4_bracket_2_medium

For more on the Minnesota Golden Gophers, check out The Daily Gopher. You can also follow Western College Hockey and SB Nation's NHL hub for more on the NCAA hockey tournament.

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