Flyers vs. Penguins. Canadiens vs. Bruins. Yankees vs. Red Sox. Lakers vs. Celtics. All these are historic rivalries in the world of sports. You can throw in North Dakota vs. Minnesota into that mix as well. There hasn’t been a game of higher stakes between these two clubs since the 1979 national title game, in which Herb Brooks’ Golden Gophers were victorious.
With a date versus Union on the line for a crack at the national title, the two old WCHA rivals battled all game. In the end, Minnesota came away as the winners defeating North Dakota 2-1 in dramatic fashion Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
Justin Holl’s (CHI) shorthanded goal with 0.6 seconds remaining in the game was the game-winner. The goal was his first of the season.
Holl after game said he was just focused on getting a shot on net.
“Most of us were just focusing on killing the penalty and getting to overtime,” Holl said. “I guess it just developed where there we’re five seconds left and I figured might as well jump in and it went in.”
He couldn’t have picked a better time to score, eh!
“I guess it was another boring Minnesota North Dakota game tonight”, said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. “I thought North Dakota played extremely well.”
Minnesota’s Sam Warning broke the stalemate at 10:51 of the third period with Kyle Rau (FLA) assisting on the play. That was Warning’s first goal since Feb. 28th. Just 32 seconds later North Dakota’s Connor Gaarder evened the game at 1-1. Dillon Simpson and Jordan Schmaltz both registered assists on the goal.
Almost 50 minutes of game had passed before a goal.
Blocking shots has become a staple for North Dakota this season. The aforementioned Simpson (EDM) paced the nation in blocked shots with 107. His partner on the blueline, St. Louis Blues first-round draft pick Jordan Schmaltz, is second on the team with 58.
The two once again provided stability on the backend for North Dakota Thursday night. Both in my opinion will be NHLers for a long time.
“North Dakota’s defenseman all skate so well and generate so much from the backend, said Lucia. “They really get into the play from an offensive standpoint.”
Both goaltenders were tremendous. Minnesota’s goalie Adam Wilcox (TB) stopped 28 shots, while North Dakota goalie Zane Gothberg (BOS) stopped 37 shots.
“Adam certainly gave us an opportunity to win the game based on his play”, Lucia said. “I’m proud of our guys to play on the last day of the year.”
Minnesota will be seeking their sixth national title and their first since 2003. They will play Union at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday.