Gophers rally for 5-2 hockey win over Notre Dame

Sophomore forward Thomas Vanek scored two goals and added an assist to lead the Gopher hockey team to a 5-2 win over Notre Dame in the semifinal of the 2004 NCAA Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The top-seeded Golden Gophers fell behind 2-0 to the #4 seed Fighting Irish before scoring five unanswered goals in the second and third period to advance to tomorrow's regional championship game. Minnesota will play Minnesota-Duluth for spot in the 2004 Frozen Four in Boston on April 8-10.

The Golden Gophers got four goals and two assists from the top line of Vanek, Matt Koalska and Troy Riddle to push Minnesota's winning streak to seven games and give UM its 16th consecutive postseason win.

 

Notre Dame took a 2-0 lead after the first period with a goal in each the first and last minute of the period. The Fighting Irish scored  just 54 seconds into the game as Cory McLean converted on a 2-on-1 to beat Minnesota goaltender Kellen Briggs low on the stick side. Mike Walsh and Aaron Gill were credited with assists on the play. The goal marked the 11th time this season Minnesota has allowed a goal in the first minute of a period.

 

Notre Dame gained the two-goal lead at 19:18 on the power play with Gill's 17th goal of the season. Walsh took a shot from the high slot with the puck coming to Gill to knock in on Briggs' stick side. The lamplighter marked the 12th time this season UM has given up a goal in the last minute of a period.

 

The Golden Gophers out-shot the Irish, 13-8 in the opening period of play.

 

The Maroon and Gold came out flying in the second period, scoring twice in the first 10 minutes to knot the game at two before taking its first lead of the game. Minnesota cut the Notre Dame lead to one with a goal just 26 seconds into the period. Taking a pass from Chris Harrington, Vanek skated into the ND zone and made a great pass to Koalska, who was streaking down the right side. Koalska got behind the Irish defense and skated across the slot to flip the puck into the net on ND goaltender Morgan Cey's stick side.

 

The Golden Gophers tied the game at 9:13 on Danny Irmen's 14th goal of the season. On the power play, Harrington fired a one-timer from the center point that deflected off Irmen in front of the Irish net. Gino Guyer earned the second assist on the play. Irmen is now on a three-game point and goal streak (4-1--5) and leads all Minnesota rookies with 14-8--22.

 

Vanek gave Minnesota its first lead of the contest, scoring an unassisted goal at 16:24. Ryan Potulny and an Irish defender got tied up in the slot with the puck squirting loose for Vanek to go high to Cey's stick side for the go-ahead goal.

 

The Golden Gophers controlled play in the second period, out-shooting Notre Dame, 21-7, for a two-period advantage of 34-15.

 

Minnesota made it 4-2 at 11:52 of the third period with Vanek's second goal of the game. Taking a pass from Koalska, Vanek skated down the right side, faked a shot, went around the back of the net and scored with a wraparound goal. The lampighter was Vanek's team-leading 26th of the season and gave the sophomore forward his third point of the day (2-1--3).

 

The Maroon and Gold wrapped up its NCAA Regional semifinal win with Riddle's empty-net, shorthanded goal with 36 seconds remaining in the game.

 

For the third period, Minnesota out-shot Notre Dame, 11-7, to finish the contest with a 45-22 advantage on the shot board. Briggs picked up the win with 20 saves to improve to 24-10-3 on the season. Cey took the loss with 40 saves to fall to 5-7-1.

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