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Holl’s last-second winner sends Minnesota to NCAA title game

by Emerald Gao / Chicago Blackhawks
(Getty Images)

Minnesota defenseman Justin Holl hadn’t scored a goal all season, partly due to his role as a shutdown blueliner for the nation’s top-ranked team. And there he was in Thursday’s Frozen Four semifinal game, killing a penalty against North Dakota’s most dangerous players, with regulation time winding down in a 1-1 tie. After Minnesota center Kyle Rau (a 2011 draft pick by Florida) won a defensive-zone draw, the puck was cleared quickly, and the Golden Gophers headed up the ice on an odd-man rush with 6 seconds left in the third period. Holl passed to Rau, whose shot was blocked, the puck ricocheting off Holl’s skate to his stick. With less than a second left, Holl quickly launched a seeing-eye shot from just inside the left faceoff dot, which beat UND netminder Zane Gothberg (2010, BOS) at the far post.

The senior blueliner, Chicago’s second-round selection in 2010, was able to revel in his unexpected heroics after a video review confirmed that there was still a scant amount of time left on the clock. Not that there was much more hockey to play: Holl’s tally—shorthanded and with 0.6 seconds left—is believed to be the latest game-winner in Frozen Four history (no official records are kept).

“Five seconds left, I thought, ‘Might as well jump in,’ and it went in,” Holl said after the game. “I didn’t see the goal at the time. Everyone jumped on me, and I was dying on the bottom of the pile.”

North Dakota defenseman and 2010 sixth-round pick Nick Mattson finished his junior season with a career-high 22 points (4G, 18A) in 40 games, while 2013 fifth-rounder Luke Johnson posted 21 points (8G, 13A) in his freshman campaign.

Earlier on Thursday, the first semifinal featured a few dramatic last-minute plays as well: In the tilt between Union and Boston College, a late push by the Eagles narrowed the score to 5-4, but BC forward Johnny Gaudreau’s attempt at the final horn was saved by Union goaltender Colin Stevens, sending the Dutchmen to the championship game for the first time in the program’s history.

Forward Kevin Hayes, Chicago’s 2010 first-round pick, collected a pair of assists in the loss; the 2014 Hobey Baker Award finalist finished his senior campaign with 65 points (27G, 38A) in 40 games, the second-highest point total in the nation.

Minnesota will face off against Union for the championship on Saturday, April 12, at 6:30 CDT; the game will be broadcast live on ESPN.

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