(Sioux Falls, SD) — The No. 7 Golden Gophers men’s hockey team continues the 2024 NCAA Sioux Falls Regional as the No. 2 seed heading into Saturday’s regional final matchup against No. 2 and top-seeded Boston University.

With a spot in the NCAA Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minn., on the line, Minnesota faces the Terriers at 5:30 p.m. inside the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center. The contest will be available to watch on ESPNU and streaming on ESPN+, while audio coverage for the Maroon and Gold can be heard on the Learfield/Gopher Radio Network.

Minnesota’s win over Omaha in the NCAA Sioux Falls Regional opener Thursday night was the program’s 62nd all-time victory in the NCAA Tournament, the most of any college hockey program in the country. The Gophers own a 62-41 record (.602) in 41 trips to the national stage since 1953 and are making their fourth-consecutive appearance in 2024. Under the guidance of head coach Bob Motzko, the Maroon and Gold own a mark of 7-3 in the postseason event, including at least one win in each of the last four seasons, and are going for its third-straight appearance at the NCAA Frozen Four. Minnesota has 18 players on its roster that have made at least one trip to the NCAA Tournament, 16 of which have taken the ice, while six members are returning to the national spotlight for the fourth time.

Minnesota leads the all-time series with BU, 13-12-2 (.519), after picking up a 6-2 victory in the most recent meeting at the 2023 NCAA Frozen Four. This will be the 10th matchup to take place in the NCAA postseason where the Gophers have claimed six of the previous nine games. It was Luke Mittelstadt’s two goals in a span of two minutes during the third period that helped the Maroon and Gold take down the Terriers in Tampa, Fla., a season ago. He and fellow freshman Logan Cooley each had three-point performances, aided by Cooley’s pair of empty-net goals, as Minnesota advanced to the NCAA title game.

For the first time in the 103-year history of the Minnesota men’s hockey program, it will play a game in the state of South Dakota when it takes the ice Thursday in the NCAA Sioux Falls Regional. The Gophers played in Fargo, N.D., a season ago for the NCAA regional round and will travel approximately four miles less during their trip to the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in 2024 with the arena located 238 miles from campus.

For graduate student Jaxon Nelson, Sioux Falls, S.D., is as close to home as you can get for the postseason as the Magnolia, Minn., native grew up less than 40 miles from the largest city in South Dakota and played prep hockey at Luverne High School, 15 miles from the state’s border. Nelson also played two seasons for Sioux Falls in the USHL, making 112 appearances between 2016-18. The Gophers have three other players that spent at least two years with the Stampede in Garrett Pinoniemi (2019-22), Max Rud (2020-23), and Cal Thomas (2020-22), while Rud’s father, Eric, is the current head coach for Sioux Falls. The Gophers’ Bob Motzko served as the general manager and coach of the Stampede during the team’s first three seasons in the USHL (1998-2001) and was named the USHL General Manager of the Year in 2000.

Jaxon Nelson has been nearly unstoppable for the Golden Gophers of late with a goal in five of his last seven games, including four multi-goal performances, and has 10 of his career-best 18 goals over that span. After his two-goal effort versus Omaha, he became the fifth Gopher to reach 30 points this year, the most points of his career. He had 10 points and a plus-8 rating during a season-long, five-game point streak and also won double-digit faceoffs in each of those outings (64-of-102), a 63 percent success rate. Against No. 16 Michigan to close the regular season, Nelson totaled six points via five goals and an assist on his way to a B1G First Star of the Week (Mar. 5) honor, the first weekly award of his five-year career. He recorded his first collegiate hat trick in Friday night’s win, scoring once in each of the three periods. The Magnolia, Minn., native followed that with his third, three-point performance of the season the next night as he tallied two goals and an assist in the third period to help the Gophers overcome a three-goal deficit. No stranger to the big stage, Nelson has recorded a point in five-straight NCAA Tournament games and has 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 10 career NCAA outings over the past four years.

Nelson spoke with MNN sports director Mike Grimm after Friday’s practice:


Gopher sophomore forward Jimmy Snuggerud of Chaska discussed tomorrow’s game with MNN sports director Mike Grimm:


(info courtesy of Gopher Sports)
(photo credit – Brad Rempel)

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