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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
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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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - MTL 76 47 21 8 200 169 102
2 x - NYR 74 47 20 7 226 172 101
3 TBL 76 46 23 7 244 198 99
4 PIT 75 41 23 11 207 188 93
5 NYI 76 44 27 5 230 211 93
6 DET 74 40 22 12 216 201 92
7 WSH 75 40 25 10 218 186 90
8 BOS 75 37 25 13 199 195 87
9 OTT 74 37 25 12 216 199 86
10 FLA 75 34 26 15 186 205 83
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 75 31 32 12 167 192 74
14 CAR 74 28 36 10 173 202 66
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 75 20 47 8 144 254 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 72 13 34 8 47
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
J. Jokinen 74 7 33 -1 40
J. Jagr 70 13 26 -3 39
B. Boyes 73 12 23 10 35
A. Ekblad 74 11 24 11 35
J. Hayes 65 18 13 -5 31
A. Barkov 64 14 17 -2 31
B. Campbell 75 3 21 2 24
B. Pirri 42 20 2 5 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 26 17 12 .921 2.33
A. Montoya 5 7 2 .888 3.08
 
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