Here are my final notes, statistics, etc. from Minnesota's 7-3 win over Robert Morris to advance to the West regional final tomorrow evening.
-It comes as no surprise to anyone that Robert Morris didn't have the horses to keep up with Minnesota. The Colonials needed a lot to go their way if they wanted a shot at knocking off the top-ranked Gophers on what is basically Minnesota's home ice. That didn't happen. Minnesota put up three goals in the first period, and while Robert Morris fought until the end and kept a game that looked like was going off the rails respectable, they couldn't overcome such a huge deficit.
-Robert Morris had their chances early; namely about 30 seconds of of 5x3 power play time just three minutes into the game. But the Colonials struggled with their power play all night long, and didn't do much of anything with that two-man advantage. Robert Morris was a bit of an anomaly this year in that they were ranked very in scoring offense, but didn't have much of a power play. That was definitely representative tonight.
-Still, it looked like the Colonials might escape that first period with a scoreless game, which would have been huge. Instead, the dam finally broke on a nice goal by Nate Condon. Minnesota had been dominating play five-on-five prior to that, but the game was very much played zone-to-zone, and with all ten guys clogging up the Robert Morris defensive zone, the Colonials were doing a good job of disrupting Minnesota enough to stop any high quality chances. But Condon was able to generate some speed in the neutral zone and gain zone entry with ease, setting up that offensive opportunity.
-Minnesota would add two more goals before the end of the period, including one with 16.8 seconds left in the period in what must have felt like a back-breaker for the Colonials. There's no questioning how much Minnesota dominated that period. Shots were only 16 to 9 in favor of the Gophers, but when you look at even strength shot attempts(known as Corsi), Minnesota had a 25 to 5 advantage which is pretty insane by Corsi standards. The rest of the game was closer in terms of shot attempts, but Minnesota also became a little more conservative while protecting their lead.
-Robert Morris' top line of Cody Wydo, Scott Jacklin, and Zac Lynch were as good as advertised. They had a slow first period, like their entire team did, but really picked things up in the second period. They worked together on Robert Morris' two goals, and Wydo had another glorious chance on a 2-on-1 that he put off the post shortly before Minnesota made it 4-0 and could have been a game-changer. All three of those guys return for Robert Morris, as does a good chunk of Robert Morris' team, so it wouldn't be a huge surprise to me to see them back near the top of Atlantic Hockey next year.
-Dalton Izyk was really excellent in goal for Robert Morris as well. His six goals allowed on 49 shots faced doesn't reflect just how well he played.. Minnesota got a fair number of their goals off rebounds and shots through traffic which are going to happen with such a heavy workload. But Izyk kept this one from getting out of hand with a number of point blank shots.
-I continue to be impressed with the maturation of Minnesota's Mike Reilly. He's managed to become a more dangerous offensive player than he was last year, while also staying more responsible than he was last year. He's starting to make the jump from really good player to superstar player.
-It's tough to judge Minnesota's effort because they spent so much of the game protecting a big lead, but they were very impressive in the first period. If they can replicate that effort for 60 minutes tomorrow night, they'll be extremely tough to beat. The Gophers ability to keep getting those dirty, gritty rebound-type goals makes them so tough to beat, and one of the big reasons I'll think they'll go farther in this tournament than some of their recent teams have.