The University of Minnesota men’s hockey team’s playoff run was a short one.
The Gophers entered the 16-team NCAA tournament as a No. 3 seed and faced a familiar opponent in No. 2 Minnesota Duluth — a former conference foe — on Friday in Manchester, N.H. It was the fifth time these two teams faced each other this year, and the fifth time was not the charm for the Gophers. Minnesota was dealt a 4-1 loss by the Bulldogs, effectively ending the Gophers’ 2014-15 season. UMD won four of the five meetings against its instate rival.
Minnesota Duluth was the only team to shut out the Gophers this year, topping Minnesota 3-0 in mid-November, and almost did so again Friday. Minnesota allowed three first-period goals and never had a chance to recover as Minnesota Duluth kept its foot on the gas all game. The Gophers finished with 32 shots on goal, but only one found the net.
Minnesota didn’t get a power-play opportunity until midway through the third period. By that point the Gophers already trailed 4-0. The Bulldogs took advantage of an earlier power play of their own, when Carson Soucy scored with the man advantage in the second period. Minnesota goalie Adam Wilcox faced 33 shots Friday, stopping 29.
The Gophers’ only goal came with 4:54 remaining, when senior Seth Ambroz was able to help Minnesota avoid the shutout. It was far too little too late, though, as the Gophers’ season came to a disappointing end.
1. Kasimir Kaskisuo, G, Bulldogs: The freshman goalie from Finland had a solid first season of college hockey, posting a .915 save percentage and a 2.31 goals-against average heading into the tournament. Kaskisuo was on his A-game Friday against the Gophers, stopping 31 of the 32 shots he faced.
Minnesota didn’t have a ton of shots on goal but did have a number of good scoring chances earlier in the game. However, Kaskisuo answered the call every time, standing tall in net for the Bulldogs. His only miscue was the goal by Ambroz late in the third, but the game was well in hand for Kaskisuo and UMD by that point.
2. Justin Crandall, F, Bulldogs: Crandall finished the season with the second-most goals on UMD with 12. His first-period tally — his 13th goal of the season stood as the game winner in the Bulldogs’ 4-1 win. It was the second game-winning goal of the season for Crandall, a Lakeville, Minn., native.
Crandall’s goal came at the 15:27 mark of the first period and put Minnesota Duluth up 2-0. He deflected a shot by Brenden Kotyk to send the puck past Wilcox.
3. Tony Cameranesi, F, Bulldogs: Cameranesi, UMD’s leading scorer during the season, opened the scoring in Friday’s game with a first period tally 12:49 into the game. He took a nice crossing pass through the crease from teammate Willie Raskob and had plenty of net to score the game’s first goal.
Later in Friday’s game, Cameranesi returned the favor as he assisted on Raskob’s goal. Raskob collected his own rebound and fired on net, and the puck hit off Gophers defenseman Mike Reilly and in. Cameranesi was credited with the first assist on the play.
Seen: Though Minnesota Duluth had won three of the four previous meetings against the Gophers this year, Friday’s was the most dominant. The Bulldogs controlled the play for much of the game and never let Minnesota get comfortable on offense. Though UMD did have a 3-0 win over the Gophers earlier this year, Friday’s 4-1 victory appeared more lopsided — especially given the stakes of the NCAA tournament.
Next: The Gophers’ season is over. One year after advancing to the national championship, Minnesota doesn’t even make it past the first day of the tournament. Don Lucia’s team finishes the year with a 23-13-3 overall record, including four losses to Minnesota Duluth.
With Friday’s loss, the college careers of Minnesota’s five seniors — Kyle Rau, Seth Ambroz, Ben Marshall, Travis Boyd and Christian Isackson — are over. Now the Gophers will also wait to see if any players opt to leave school early to turn pro. Defenseman Mike Reilly, a Hobey Baker top 10 finalist, is a possibility, as is fellow defenseman Brady Skjei.
It will no doubt be a long offseason for Minnesota, which had high hopes — and a No. 1 ranking — entering the season but fell well short of the team’s ultimate goal.