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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 / News
By "Hockey Pat" McGrath  - FloridaPanthers.com
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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.
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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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 50 31 15 4 163 132 66
2 MTL 47 31 13 3 127 108 65
3 NYI 48 32 15 1 157 135 65
4 DET 49 28 12 9 145 128 65
5 PIT 48 27 13 8 143 124 62
6 WSH 48 25 14 9 144 124 59
7 BOS 49 26 16 7 131 123 59
8 NYR 46 27 15 4 135 111 58
9 FLA 46 21 15 10 114 129 52
10 PHI 50 21 22 7 139 151 49
11 TOR 50 22 24 4 144 155 48
12 OTT 47 19 19 9 129 134 47
13 CBJ 47 21 23 3 119 148 45
14 NJD 48 18 22 8 109 135 44
15 CAR 47 17 25 5 102 122 39
16 BUF 49 14 32 3 92 174 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
N. Bjugstad 46 16 13 -1 29
A. Ekblad 46 7 21 6 28
J. Huberdeau 43 9 17 1 26
J. Jokinen 45 4 21 -3 25
B. Boyes 44 10 12 2 22
J. Hayes 38 13 7 0 20
S. Bergenheim 35 8 9 1 17
A. Barkov 35 5 10 -5 15
B. Campbell 46 3 11 -1 14
D. Kulikov 41 1 13 -4 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 18 11 8 .920 2.42
A. Montoya 3 4 2 .891 2.96
 
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