And the tradition continues.
For the 21st time since 1953, the Gophers hockey team is headed to the Frozen Four after a thorough 4-0 win over St. Cloud State in the NCAA West Regional final Sunday at the Xcel Energy Center.
“Going to a Frozen Four never gets old; it’s a thrill,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said.
In a quest for their sixth national title, the Gophers (27-6-6) will face North Dakota in a national semifinal at 7:30 p.m. April 10 in Philadelphia.
The Gophers will play the team formerly called the Sioux for the 291st time since 1930, the most-storied matchup in program history.
“I had an inkling once North Dakota won (Saturday), we have to win now,” Lucia said. “I haven’t seen them a lot, but I don’t have to throw in the tape to know how North Dakota plays.
Sunday, the top-seeded Gophers renewed their rivalry with St. Cloud State for the 94th time and first time in the NCAA tournament. The Huskies went to the Frozen Four last year and the Gophers watched after a first-round loss to eventual champion Yale.
The tradition can be tedious.
After scoring only one goal against Ohio State in a Big Ten tournament semifinal, the Gophers worked on practice drills to get the puck into the “hard areas,” Lucia said.
Sunday, they got two goals from freshman Justin Kloos and single scores from Seth Ambroz and Kyle Rau.
When they score first this season, the Gophers are 16-0-5.
“When you have Adam (Wilcox) in net, it makes the hill a little bit taller,” Lucia said. “But the confidence, especially this time of year, and getting the first goal is huge.”
The region’s third-seeded Huskies (22-11-5), who ranked third in the nation with 3.68 goals per game, were blanked for only the second time this season.
St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said it was “Minnesota’s speed” that kept his team from generating many scoring chances. The Gophers outshot the Huskies 35-24.
Kloos’ first goal went off a skate and Ambroz’s went off a hip — both on rebounds — but the Gophers’ third goal midway through the second period came as a result of smooth passing by Nate Condon and Tyler Cammarata to set up Kloos for a goal on the doorstep.
“Just tap it in,” Kloos said.
The Huskies starting goalie, Ryan Faragher, gave up three goals on 15 shots and was replaced by freshman Charlie Lindgren at 14:40 of the second period.
Faragher, who tied a season high with 39 saves Saturday against Notre Dame, had been battling flu symptoms all weekend.
Motzko acknowledged a few times that his team might have been a tad worn down after an overtime win Saturday ended after 11 p.m.
But as the Gophers’ tradition continues, the enjoyment does, too.
“As a coach, you enjoy it just as much every time you go,” said Lucia, with his gold 2003 championship ring on his right hand.
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