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NCAAM: Bullet Points (April 2)

By Kyle McLaughlin , 04/02/24, 3:00PM CDT


Minnesota represented the last hope for the State of Hockey's collegiate teams before falling to Boston University in the NCAA Tournament's second round.

No. 7 Minnesota (23-11-5) 

In round one of the NCAA Tournament, the Gophers squared off against the No. 3-seed Omaha Mavericks (23-13-4) in the Sioux Falls Regional on 3/28.

In a scoreless first period, the Gophers were outshot 9-4 and ended the period on a five-minute major penalty kill that carried over into the second. Omaha's Joaquim Lemay broke the deadlock on that major power play 1:51 into the second, scoring his fifth goal of the season. The Mavericks held onto that one-goal lead until the waning minutes of the second when freshman Jimmy Clark sniped home his fifth goal.

Early in the third, the Mavericks made it 2-1 off a goal from Ty Mueller, forcing the Gophers to respond once more to keep their season alive. With 10:45 left in the period, Bryce Brodzinski forechecked hard and won a 50/50 puck battle behind the net before feeding it to a wide-open Jaxon Nelson in front, with Nelson burying it to tie the game. That same player combination reconnected to score the go-ahead goal and game-winner with 4:13 left in regulation, leading to Nelson's tenth goal in the previous seven games and Brodzinski's 34th point of the season.

Goaltender Justen Close made a few clutch saves late to secure the 3-2 victory and move on to the second round against Boston University. 

Justen Close

Against BU, Jaxon Nelson continued his excellent run of play and scored 7:19 into the first to put Minnesota ahead 1-0 against the top seed in the region and No. 2 team in the country. Then, with 2:13 left in the period, Bryce Brodzinski snapped home a goal to make it 2-0, and the Gophers looked prime to head into the first intermission ahead by two goals. Unfortunately, Boston University responded only 14 seconds later with a goal that Justen Close would like to have back to bring it to 2-1 at the break.

Early in the second, the Terriers tied it at 2-2 before taking a 3-2 lead at 5:25, with freshman phenom Macklin Celebrini nicely assisting on a Jack Harvey goal. A gritty goal from Aaron Huglen tied it up at 3-3 midway through the period before Lane Hutson scored his 15th goal of the season to retake the lead for BU.

In the third, the Gophers could not find an answer, and all nine shots on net were brushed aside by Mathieu Caron, leading to a 6-3 loss after the Terriers added two late empty net goals. 

Jaxon Nelson

The Gophers' all-time NCAA Tournament record sits at 62-42 after these two games, and the program has impressively won a playoff game in four straight NCAA tournaments. However, it must be a disappointment to narrowly miss the opportunity to play in the Frozen Four in front of a home crowd at the Xcel Energy Center.

Justen Close finished his college career with a 22-10-5 record this season and a 62-25-6 career record, ending tied at the top of the overall shutout record with 13.

Rhett Pitlick and Bryce Brodzinski finished the season tied atop the points leaderboard with 36, followed closely by Jimmy Snuggerud (34), Oliver Moore (33), and Jaxon Nelson (31).

With seven current graduate students or seniors, it will be an offseason full of change, and we expect to see several new faces at the start of the 2024-25 season. 

Jimmy Snuggerud announced Tuesday April 2 that he will return to Minnesota for his junior season.

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