Minnesota is headed back to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2005 after a 5-2 win over North Dakota on Sunday.
Five different players scored and goaltender Kent Patterson made 24 saves to pace the Gophers to the NCAA West Regional title.
Ben Marshall gave Minnesota an early lead with a seeing-eye slap shot that found its way past goaltender Aaron Dell.
Zach Budish created the play with a good effort up the left side and found Marshall alone just in front of the blue line.
It was Marshall’s fifth goal of the season and the third goal by a Minnesota defenseman in the NCAA West Regional.
Minnesota was clearly the aggressor after Marshall scored, but UND withstood the initial rush and regained its composure.
Considering the magnitude of the rivalry and with a spot to the Frozen Four on the line, it was a relatively clean first period.
However, Carter Rowney took a costly penalty at the end of the period that carried over into the next frame and Erik Haula made him pay. Haula settled just to the right of the crease on the power play and Nick Bjugstad found him with a pin-point pass just 20 seconds into the period. Haula patiently waited for Dell to move and then promptly slid the puck into the back of the net to make it 2-0.
Minnesota gave it back just 83 seconds later when Danny Kristo handled a funny hop off the back board and blistered a wrist shot past Kent Patterson.
UND established a little more rhythm subsequent to the goal, but struggled to get the puck to the net.
The Gophers heavily outshot UND, 12-2, in the second period, but still the game felt rather close midway through the frame.
That was until senior captain Taylor Matson created some separation with his first goal in 17 games. It also proved to be the game-winning goal.
The Gophers controlled the pace the rest of the period and added to its lead at five minutes later.
Travis Boyd scored the first goal of his career on a deflection in front of the net to make it 4-1.
Boyd’s goal gave Minnesota an ominous three-goal lead — the same lead it blew just eight days ago to UND.
That was not the case on Sunday. Patterson wouldn’t let it happen.
The Gophers took a penalty 14 seconds into the third period, but killed the UND’s power play opportunity with relative ease.
UND made a push throughout the frame, but Patterson rose to the occasion as he has many times this season. He made 24 saves Sunday, including 14 in the third period.
Nate Condon added a goal late in the third period that sealed the Gophers berth to the Frozen Four. Mario Lamoureux tallied a goal immediately after Condon scored, but it was too little, too late and the game ended at 5-2.
Minnesota’s bench emptied toward Patterson in the crease and padding littered the ice once the final horn sounded.
The Gophers will face the either Boston College or Minnesota-Duluth in two weeks in Tampa, Fla.