It was a game that practically mirrored the battle of David and Goliath. The University of Minnesota, a top-ranked perennial powerhouse from the Midwest, against Union College, a relatively lesser-known school from the Northeast, ready to prove their bite is just as big as their bark.
Minnesota had been here before. This season marked the 21st trip to the Frozen Four for the Golden Gophers. Just because they were not the typical “Cinderella story” you hear about with NCAA tournaments, it doesn’t mean they were opposed to a fairytale ending.
Up against a hungry North Dakota team, the Gophers had the crowd on their feet – or in disbelief, depending on which side you were on – with a last second goal, literally. With 0.6 seconds left to play and on the penalty kill, senior Justin Holl somehow shot through two defenseman and past goaltender Zane Gothberg to secure a 2-1 victory and send them to the championship.
“Most of us were just focusing on killing the penalty and getting to overtime,” said Holl afterward. “It just developed where there were five seconds left, and I figured might as well jump in, and it went in.”
Meanwhile, Union College was battling another giant: Boston College. After beating the BC Eagles 5-4, Union would advance to just their second Frozen Four appearance in school history (Their first trip was in 2012).
The championship game was set: Union College vs. Minnesota. As the unofficial underdog, most of the odds were against the Dutchmen. So when the first period started out with Minnesota scoring just two minutes and 37 seconds into the game, Union was looking to make a statement. After an early back-and-forth battle, Union exploded by netting three unanswered goals. The first period ended 4-2 in favor of Union, making things quite interesting headed in to the locker rooms.
The second period saw less scoring, as Minnesota was only able to add one more point, a goal from freshman Taylor Cammarata. The second act closed at 4-3, still in favor of Union.
The Dutchmen responded by adding one more to the board just over five minutes in to the third. Minnesota was able to get within one, after a goal from Hudson Fasching made it 5-4. That was the last time Minnesota would be so close to beating Union.
A power-play goal from Kevin Sullivan made it 6-4, followed by an empty-net goal from Matt Bodie at 19:15.8 in the final period that solidified the 7-4 win for the Dutchmen, winning their first national title.
While one bench erupted in euphoria, the other was a line of heads hanging low.
After an exhilarating semifinal win, this was not how Minnesota pictured Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center ending. Goaltender Adam Wilcox made incredible saves, facing 41 shots in just under 59 minutes of playing time. Despite Wilcox’s impressive performance, the Dutchmen were far too hungry to end the tournament quietly.
Don’t count Minnesota out just yet. They will surely be a contender next season.
What did you think of the Union College victory? Was it what you expected, or were you surprised?