The No. 7 Minnesota men’s hockey team built a 2-0 lead in the first period before falling to No. 2 Boston University, 6-3, Saturday evening in the NCAA Sioux Falls Regional from Denny Sanford PREMIER Center.

The veterans Jaxon Nelson and Bryce Brodzinski of the No. 2 seed Golden Gophers (23-11-5 overall) got the day started with the first two goals until the Terriers (28-9-2 overall) responded. BU, the No. 2 overall seed, scored three times in the second period and got a pair of empty net goals to end the season for Minnesota.

It was a defensive battle between the historic rivals to begin the regional finale as the teams skated back-and-forth without a whistle for nearly six minutes. Minnesota’s Justen Close had to be sharp as BU increased its forecheck, which allowed the Maroon and Gold the chance to go to work, delivering the game’s opening tally at the 7:19 mark. Brodzinski picked up the puck behind the net and pushed a pass to Nelson at the right circle, who turned and fired an off-balance shot that fooled the Terriers’ netminder, giving the Gophers a 1-0 advantage. BU pushed back over the next three minutes and tested Close with five shots, all of which were turned away.

Brodzinski stayed on the attack and doubled the margin for Minnesota with 2:13 remaining in the first period. Rhett Pitlick intercepted a Terriers’ clearing attempt and found the stick of the fifth-year senior, who ripped a shot past the goalie from the left faceoff dot. The Gophers were unable to maintain the two-goal edge until intermission as BU got on the scoreboard 14 seconds later, closing the gap to 2-1 through 20 minutes of action.

The top-seeded Terriers turned up their offense early in the second stanza, scoring twice in the first six minutes to turn a one-goal deficit into a 3-2 lead. Minnesota weathered the storm and regained its composure in the middle of the frame, sustaining possession in the offensive zone. Luke Mittelstadt skated to the goal line before throwing a pass to Brody Lamb at the backdoor where his initial shot was stopped. Aaron Huglen was on the doorstep and kicked the puck to his stick before burying the tying goal at the 9:20 mark.

Nelson nearly added his second goal of the night as he skated in on a partial breakaway that was saved less than two minutes later. The Gophers continued to pressure the BU defense, leading to chances from every line, but it was the Terriers that broke the tie with 4:24 remaining in the period via an attempt from a sharp angle near the goal line.

Minnesota came out of the locker room on a mission opening the final frame and pushed the pace of the action. Close and the defense stood firm to stop any BU rushes and gave the team a chance to move the puck up ice. After Close made a save with seven minutes to play, Nelson stole the puck at his defensive blue line and attacked during a 2-on-1 with Brodzinski. Nelson patiently outwaited the BU defenseman and slotted a perfect pass across to his classmate. The puck jumped over Brodzinski’s stick and the potential tying bid had to wait.

With the favorable crowd behind them after forcing a late icing, the Gophers pulled their goalie for an extra attacker. The Terriers were able to find the empty net from the opposite end of the rink and tacked on a second into the empty cage, sealing the victory, 6-3.

Nelson celebrated his 24th birthday with his third goal of the NCAA Sioux Falls Regional and 11th over the past eight games … The Magnolia, Minn., native has posted 11 NCAA Tournament points in 11 career appearances, with a point in eight of the outings, totaling five goals and six assists … Brodzinski provided the primary assist on all three Nelson goals this weekend, pushing his career-high point total to 36, tying for the team’s season lead … It was his ninth multi-point game of the season with his 22nd helper and 14th goal … Brodzinski now has 12 career points in 11 NCAA Tournament contests, five goals and seven assists … Huglen tallied his 13th goal this year, seven of which have come in the last 10 games, and has found the back of the net in the NCAA Tournament three-straight years … Sam Rinzel recorded his team-leading 26th assist on the opening goal … Pitlick tied for the overall team scoring lead at 36 points with his 17th assist this year … Mittelstadt became the 10th Minnesota player to reach 20 points, thanks to his 18th assist, and has seven points during his previous seven games … The sophomore has tallied four points in two career outings versus BU in the NCAA Tournament … Lamb posted the 15th assist of the season and increased his point total to 27 … Close ended his Gophers career by making 32 saves Saturday.

Next Up
Minnesota turns its attention to the 2024-25 campaign after closing this season with a 23-11-5 record and its fourth-straight winning appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

(info and photo courtesy of Gopher Sports)

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