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Gophers' third-period flurry brings swift end to Canisius upset bid

Top-seeded Minnesota scored eight unanswered goals to punctuate a first-round win over the Golden Griffins.

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Minnesota's Aaron Huglen (7) celebrates his second period goal against Canisius during the NCAA men's hockey Fargo regional on Thursday, March 23, 2023, at Scheels Arena in Fargo.
David Samson/The Forum

FARGO β€” Seventeen years after its infamous first-round upset loss to Holy Cross in Grand Forks, Minnesota made sure to avoid a repeat in the Peace Garden State against Canisius on Thursday.

The top-seeded Gophers scored eight unanswered goals after trailing in the second period to claim a 9-2 win over the Golden Griffins in front of a sellout crowd of 5,061 fans at Scheels Arena.

Minnesota will play St. Cloud State on Saturday for a spot at the Frozen Four.

"It was probably the closest 9-2 game I've ever seen," Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko said. "They have a 2-1 lead in the second and they're playing to their game plan.

"What I liked about us is we stuck to our game plan and kept getting pucks deep. We had to grind tonight because of how they were going to play."

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Two goals on a five-minute power play β€” after a major penalty and game misconduct were called against Canisius' Stefano Bottini for contact to the head of the Gophers' Jackson LaCombe β€” early in the third period allowed Minnesota some breathing room after a tightly-contested opening 40 minutes.

"It was a 9-2 hockey game. You can't hide from that," Canisius head coach Trevor Large said. "It didn't feel like a 9-2 hockey game. It felt much closer."

Jimmy Snuggerud and Brody Lamb each scored on the five-minute advantage to give Minnesota a three-goal lead.

Four more goals before the end of the night, including a hat trick from Bryce Brodzinski after his first would-be goal was disallowed when a review showed it didn't cross the goal line, reminded the crowd β€” heavily partisan towards the closer to home team β€” of the firepower Minnesota has in its arsenal.

"[The third period penalty kill] kind of gave them [a chance to be] tired the rest of the game," Brodzinksi said, "and it showed after that five-minute major starting to take it up a little bit."

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Minnesota's Mason Nevers controls the pack against Canisius' David Melaragni during the NCAA men's hockey Fargo regional on Thursday, March 23, 2023, at Scheels Arena in Fargo.
David Samson/The Forum

Minnesota trailed 2-1 after the Griffins took their first lead of the night on a beauty from Nick Bowman early in the second period. The graduate forward dizzied a Gopher defender before firing a shot off the left post and in to give Canisius the lead 3:23 into the middle stanza.

"When you go up at that point in the game you're pretty excited, but I knew we had to move on from it because they're a good team, too," Bowman said.

Aaron Huglen, a Roseau native who called Scheels Arena home for three seasons while with the USHL's Fargo Force, tied the game midway through the second on a slingshotted wrister past Barczewski's blocker.

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"Really fun to be back in Fargo. I love it here," Huglen said. "It was a closer game than we would've liked, but we got it done."

A finish in front from Connor Kurth, despite a Griffin defender draped all over him, with 1:56 left in the second period punctuated a tremendous shift from the Minnesota third line, pushed the Gophers back in front with a 3-2 lead and, ultimately, was the winning goal.

In the first period, with two seconds left in their first power-play chance, the Gophers took the game's first lead when Luke Mittelstadt threw a shot from below the left circle off Canisius goalie Jacob Barczewski's leg pad and into the net.

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Minnesota's Brody Lamb (17) scores against Canisius during the NCAA men's hockey Fargo regional on Thursday, March 23, 2023, at Scheels Arena in Fargo.
David Samson/The Forum

It took only two and a half minutes for the Griffins to answer.

Seconds after Minnesota killed a penalty, Canisius' Daniel DiGrande one-timed a shot through Justen Close's five-hole to tie the game at one.

Minnesota will play two-seed St. Cloud State inside Scheels Arena Saturday at 5:30 p.m. for a spot in Tampa. The Gophers split a home-and-home series with the Huskies in early January.

"We played them this year. We get them on TV," Motzko said. "They're on a heater right now."

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CANISIUS 1-1-0β€”2
MINNESOTA 1-2-6β€”9

FIRST PERIOD: 1, MINN, Luke Mittlestadt (Koster, Brodzinski), PP, 6:08. 2, CAN, DiGrande (Decker, Bowman), 8:41.

SECOND PERIOD: 3, CAN, Bowman (Lambert), 3:23. 4, MINN, Huglen (Lamb, Pitlick), 8:15. 5, MINN, Kurth (Koster, Pitlick), 18:04.

THIRD PERIOD: 6, MINN, Snuggerud (Nelson, Cooley), PP, 1:10. 7, MINN, Lamb (Faber, Kurth), PP, 2:35. 8, MINN, Brodzinski (Cooley, Faber), 9:57. 9, MINN, Nevers (Cooley, LaCombe), PP, 12:28. 10, MINN, Brodzinski (John Mittelstadt), 12:50. 11, MINN, Brodzinski (unassisted), 19:03.

SHOTS: CAN, 6-9-5β€”20. MINN, 9-10-15β€”34.

SAVES: CAN, Barczewski (9-8-8β€”25). MINN, Close (5-8-5β€”18)

POWER PLAY: CAN, 0-for-4. MINN, 4-for-5.

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Minnesota fans cheer on the Gophers against Canisius Minnesota's during the NCAA mens hockey west regionals on Thursday, March 23, 2023, at Scheels Arena in Fargo.
David Samson/The Forum

Eli is an audience engagement specialist for Forum Communications Co., with experience in producing and designing content on a variety of digital platforms. He works closely with team members to enhance content to improve audience experience.
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