Three-point efforts from freshmen Logan Cooley and Luke Mittelstadt led Minnesota men’s hockey to a 6-2 victory over No. 5/4 Boston University at the 2023 NCAA Frozen Four. The ‘U’ scored four times in the third period to break open the national semifinals inside Amalie Arena Thursday.
Mittelstadt’s pair of third-period tallies turned around a 2-2 tie and helped the Golden Gophers (29-9-1 overall) to the title game by snapping the Hockey East champion Terriers (29-11-0 overall) nine-game winning streak. The freshman scored twice in a two-minute span early in the third, pushing the Maroon and Gold to its 13th all-time appearance in the NCAA championship game and first since 2014. Cooley added two goals into an empty net securing the postseason win, while Aaron Huglen and Mike Koster each had multi-point efforts.
It felt like 3M Arena at Mariucci as the Gophers faithful showed up in droves and provided a boost from the minute the team stepped off the bus. When the pageantry of the event subsided and the puck was dropped, Minnesota went on the offensive. Jaxon Nelson nearly finished off a leaky rebound just a minute into the contest before Jimmy Snuggerud thought he opened the scoring the very next shift, ringing a shot through the BU goalie’s pads and off the left post. The Maroon and Gold continued to use its speed advantage and drew a power play at the 5:51 mark but was unable to convert the opportunity. It was the Terriers that struck first as a rebound from a point shot fell right on the forward’s stick for the 1-0 lead with 9:22 to play in the period.
The Gophers delivered a penalty kill during the middle stages of the period and a high hit by BU led to their second crack on the man advantage. The veteran presence of Koster provided the equalizer as the junior’s shot from the left circle found its way through traffic on the power play. Nelson intercepted a clearing attempt along the wall before Cooley slid a pass over to Koster, making it 1-1 with 4:51 remaining in the opening frame. The offense wasn’t done yet and Rhett Pitlick buried a behind-the-back, between-the-legs pass from Huglen 50 seconds later for Minnesota’s second power-play goal. Cooley almost made it a two-score lead in the last minute, but his goal was erased after a video review for goaltender interference as the Gophers went to the locker room holding a 2-1 cushion.
Justen Close came through with four saves early in the second period as BU made a push. The Terriers were able to pull even, 2-2, at the 8:06 mark by capitalizing on a man advantage. Twice, the Gophers appeared to have taken the lead as pucks came inches from crossing the goal line and reviews of each play confirmed it stayed out as the score stayed 2-2 through two full frames.
Thanks to a penalty at the end of the period, Minnesota opened the third stanza with a 5-on-3 advantage. The top team in the nation regained the lead, scoring its third power-play goal of the night, as Mittelstadt whistled home a wrister from the left faceoff dot over the BU netminder’s glove 1:40 into the final frame. The freshman did not stop there and added his second marker less than two minutes later as the Gophers extended the margin to 4-2. Cooley put the game on ice and took over the team’s goal lead with two into an empty cage, totaling 22 this season.
Close finished the night by making 29 saves and not allowing anything through for the final 32 minutes, which allowed his offense to take over the contest. It was his 26th win of the year and has limited opposing teams to two or fewer goals 25 times.
Mittelstadt registered the first multi-goal game of his career, pushing to 21 points this season, with his second three-point effort … Koster scored his sixth goal of the season and with his seventh multi-point game of the year, increased his career-best point total to 29 … The junior from Chaska, Minn., has 18 points over his last 16 games … Cooley stretched his point streak to 16 games with his NCAA-leading 38th assist and added two goals as the freshman has seven-straight games with multiple points … He has 16 points over his last seven games and is the first Gopher freshman with 60 points since Thomas Vanek had 62 in 2002-03 … Nelson now has an assist in three-consecutive outings, totaling 17 for the year … Pitlick got his 11th goal of the campaign and third over his previous eight games … Huglen has recorded a point in four of his last six contests thanks to two assists Thursday … Brodzinski, the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Fargo Regional, had an assist and extended his scoring streak to four … BU lost for the first time this season (21-1-0) when scoring the game’s first goal.
Coach Motzko’s Comments
“I liked us tonight,” Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko said. “I thought we were playing well, and there we were tied in the third period. We had some unfortunate ones called back, one on the goal line that we thought was in but was inconclusive, but our guys stuck with it. The Koster power play with three goals tonight, and Luke Mittelstadt is a heck of a player. The one thing I was really impressed with tonight is the Minnesota people that showed up. What a crowd we had tonight. Nothing would’ve been worse than for them to have to stick around without their team being here, so we’re pretty fired up that we all get to stick around for the next couple days.”
Next Up: NCAA National Championship (Apr. 8)
Minnesota skates for its sixth national championship April 8 when it faces the winner of the other semifinal matchup between Quinnipiac and Michigan. Puck drop will be 7 p.m. (CT) Saturday inside Amalie Arena live on ESPN2 and the Gopher Radio Network.
Hugs For Huglen
Gopher forward Aaron Huglen of Roseau chatted with MNN sports director Mike Grimm after the semifinal victory:
Koster “Katch Up”
Gopher senior defenseman Mike Koster of Chaska spoke with MNN sports director Mike Grimm in the dressing room after the game:
Knies Is Nice
Minnesota forward Matthew Knies talked to MNN sports director Mike Grimm after the win:
(info courtesy of Gopher Sports)
(photo credit – Brad Rempel, Gopher Sports)