Minnesota men’s hockey could not hold onto a late lead in the 2023 NCAA National Championship game, falling 3-2 in overtime to No. 2 Quinnipiac Saturday at Amalie Arena.
The Golden Gophers (29-10-1 overall) held a 2-1 edge over the Bobcats (34-4-3 overall) with three minutes remaining in regulation but failed to finish out the game. The No. 2 overall seed scored with its net empty and less than three minutes to go before getting the winner just 10 seconds into overtime.
The Maroon and Gold faithful showed up in droves turning Tampa into Dinkytown south and the top-ranked team drew a penalty 21 seconds into the action. Minnesota created chances on the man advantage and continued to pressure the Bobcats goal, leading to an offensive-zone turnover. Connor Kurth stole an errant pass at the blue line and patiently carried the puck around the goal as the netminder slid out of position. John Mittelstadt buried the loose centering pass, and the Gophers took a 1-0 lead at the 5:35 mark.
The action stayed tilted in Minnesota’s favor as it kept pucks in deep behind the Quinnipiac defense but a dangerous chance on the rush for the ECAC conference champions forced Justen Close to make a save through traffic late in the frame. It was only the third time he got tested during the period as the Gophers maintained the one-goal edge after the first.
Less than five minutes into the second stanza, Jaxon Nelson made it a 2-0 game as the senior chipped in his 10th goal of the year over the goalie’s shoulder. After Nelson cleanly won a faceoff, Brock Faber fired a shot wide and off the end boards that caromed perfectly to the Magnolia, Minn., native where he won a battle for position at the net. The Bobcats answered with a goal of their own 3:17 later and went to their first power play searching for the equalizer. The Gophers erased the opportunity and held on late, withstanding a push by Quinnipiac for a 2-1 advantage heading into the final period.
The battle intensified as the puck was dropped for the third and it was the Bobcats pressing the issue again and had the Maroon and Gold on its heels. Close stood tall between the pipes and turned aside shots that made their way through, and the Gophers were forced to call a timeout with 6:43 to play following an icing. A controversial penalty on Minnesota in the final five minutes put Quinnipiac to its second man advantage and seconds after the power play ended, the Bobcats pulled even, 2-2. With the net empty on the other end of the ice and just 2:47 on the clock, the 33-win team forced overtime.
The extra session only lasted 10 seconds as Quinnipiac secured its first-ever national championship by winning the faceoff and stretching the play up the ice.
The Maroon and Gold are now 5-8 all-time in national title tilts, including a 1-3 mark in overtime … Minnesota suffered its first loss with a lead through two periods, going 22-1-0 this season … Mittelstadt joined his brother with goals at the NCAA Frozen Four scoring his fourth of the season, recording the third point over his last six games … Kurth picked up his fourth assist this year and had three points in the NCAA Tournament … Nelson became the seventh Gopher player to reach double digits during the campaign with his 10th … Faber has a point in three of four NCAA appearances this season and eight of his last 13 outings overall, upping his career best to 27 points … The Gophers finished the season with a 4-4-1 record in overtime games … Minnesota’s 15 shots were the fewest taken in a game all year as it faced the nation’s number one defensive team … The announced attendance of 19,444 was the 25th sellout for a Gophers game this season and the second-highest total in 75 years of an NCAA championship game played at a hockey arena.
(info courtesy of Gopher Sports)
(photo credit: Brad Rempel, Gopher Sports)