MINNEAPOLIS- For many young players, coming into Mariucci Arena can be an intimidating experience. The building has plenty of history. Between the banners, the Olympic-sized ice (which the United States WJC team practiced on a couple weeks ago) and having nearly 10,000 fans screaming, there are few places like it in college hockey.
It can offer an advantage to the home team, which was the case for Minnesota on Friday. The Gophers out-shot Colgate 8-1 in the first 5 minutes of the game and controlled play.
That didn't stop Raiders freshman goalie Charlie Finn from enjoying the moment.
"Obviously we've never in an atmosphere quite like that so it was fun," Finn, who had not played on an Olympic-sized ice sheet this season, told SB Nation College Hockey. "I was just really proud with how we stayed composed not only in the first period, but throughout the entire game."
The 20 year-old withstood all 8 shots early and was one of the differences late for Colgate (7-9-3, 5-3-1 ECAC). Finn was calm for a freshman while making 36 saves as the Raiders tied Minnesota 2-2 before winning a shootout 2-1 to advance to the Mariucci Classic championship Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. CT.
"I thought he was strong," Gopher Associate Head Coach Mike Guentzel said. "We thought we could expose some things, but we just never got to it. I have to give their defensemen a lot of credit."
Finn's coach, Don Vaughan, was not surprised with his goalie's demeanor.
"Even as a freshman he has a calming effect to the team, a cool, level-headed guy. He doesn't make a lot of mistakes mentally," said Vaughan. "That's a great thing to have for a young goalie."
The biggest moment for Finn, as well as Colgate, came in the shootout. The North Vancouver, BC native, who has split time in net for the Raiders this season with senior Eric Mihalik, stopped Christian Isackson and Justin Kloos before Kyle Rau scored. It was enough, though. Mike Borkowski and Ryan Johnston both beat Gopher goalie Adam Wilcox to give the Raiders its third victory over a top-ten team in a schedule that already seen it face St. Cloud State, Ferris State (the two teams split a two-game series in the season) and Union.
Finn had previous experience with shootouts. Although the ECAC doesn't incorporate shootouts in league play (only the Big Ten and NCHC do of the six college hockey conference), the Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he spent three seasons playing with the Kingston Voyageurs, does. This shootout was a little different.
"Obviously on a stage like that it's more intense," he said.
At the end of the day, the bright lights of Mariucci Arena didn't deter a team which suited up 13 freshmen and sophomores.
"It's a great hockey environment," said Vaughan. "I said to our guys before the game ‘if you can't get up for a game at Mariucci, it's probably time to take up chess or something else.'
"The energy in that building was phenomenal tonight. I thought our young team really answered the bell and it was an entertaining game."
- Mariucci Classic: Ferris State defeats RPI 6-2 to win first semifinal
- Frozen Fenway: Merrimack vs. Providence - Inside the Numbers
- Mariucci Classic: Colgate ties Minnesota 2-2; wins shootout to spoil #1 v. #2
- GALLERY: Maine at Quinnipiac - January 3, 2014 (Matt Dewkett)
- Gophers Hockey: Kyle Rau becomes 80th player in Minnesota history to reach 100 points
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation and College Hockey News. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate