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Rau's Gophers Advance To Frozen Finals In Dramatic Fashion

Panthers prospect Kyle Rau and the University of Minnesota will battle Union College for a NCAA Championship after dramatic finishes in their semifinals wins.

Friday, 04.11.2014 / 2:30 PM ET / News
By "Hockey Pat" McGrath  - FloridaPanthers.com
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Rau\'s Gophers Advance To Frozen Finals In Dramatic Fashion
University of Minnesota captain and Panthers prospect Kyle Rau skates with the puck against North Dakota in the NCAA Frozen Four in Philadelphia (Getty Images)

The Frozen Four lived up to the hype Thursday night in Philadelphia as fans were treated to two wild finishes in the semifinals.

In the early game, Union College held off a furious comeback attempt from Boston College and skated away with a 5-4 victory. In game two, the University of North Dakota and the University of Minnesota played to a 1-1 tie for the first 59:59 of the game before Justin Holl scored a shorthanded game winner for the Golden Gophers with just 0.6 seconds left on the clock (and they say buzzer beaters are for basketball).

Florida Panthers prospect Kyle Rau (3rd round, 2011) led the Gophers last second charge up the ice, setting up the game winning goal and tallying his second assist of the game in the process. The pair of helpers were just one piece of a very active game from Rau who also led his team with five shots while winning 72% of his face-offs (13/18).

Minnesota’s last second heroics spelled the end for Panthers prospect Rocco Grimaldi (2nd round, 2011) and North Dakota. Grimaldi recorded five shots in the semifinal and looked especially dangerous on UND’s power play in the game’s final minutes. The forward finished the season as North Dakota’s leading scorer, compiling 39 points (17-22-39) in 42 games.

The Golden Gophers will play in their 11th championship game and first since 2003 on Saturday night. There, they will face off against the Union College Dutchmen who advanced to their 1st national championship with their victory over Boston College.

The small private school from Schenectady, NY held on for the win against the Eagles, despite allowing two goals in the final two minutes. Up 4-2 in the third, Union conceded a goal to Ryan Fitzgerald at 18:15 into the period. Union would re-extend their lead to 5-3 less than a minute later at 18:51 when Daniel Ciampini scored on an empty net for his third goal of the game. BC again cut the lead to one thanks to a goal from Patrick Brown but with just five seconds left on the clock, it was too little too late for the Eagles. Margate native and former JR Panther Shayne Gostisbehere picked up two assists in the victory for Union.

BC’s loss wrapped up the season for Panthers prospects Mike Matheson (1st round, 2012) and Ian McCoshen (2nd round, 2013) as well as for Kevin Hayes, the younger brother of Panthers forward Jimmy Hayes. Matheson finished the season as BC’s top scoring defenseman with 21 points (3-18-21), while McCoshen led the defensive corps in goals with five (5-8-13).

Looking ahead, Saturday’s 7:30 championship game features a matchup between two schools on opposite ends of the college hockey spectrum. Minnesota has five national championships under their belt to go along with 11 championship appearances. The school consistently pumps out top NHL players and has an enrollment of 51,526. Union College, on the other hand, is in its first national championship game, has no alums currently competing in the NHL and an enrollment of 2,246.

Coming on the heels of Thursday’s wild finishes, the national championship game has a lot to live up to, but if it is anything like the action that was witnessed in the semis, fans should be in for a thrilling ride.

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
A. Montoya 12 7 3 .919 2.18

 
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