Gophers lose overtime heartbreaker 3-2 to Quinnipiac in NCAA title game

Mason Nevers #18 of the Minnesota Golden Gophers lays on the ice after the Quinnipiac Bobcats scored 10 seconds into overtime to win 3-2 against the Gophers during the 2023 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Frozen Four Championship Final at the Amaile Are ((Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images))

The University of Minnesota men’s hockey team is coming home from Tampa without a national title.

The Gophers had a chance to win their sixth championship in program history and first since the 2002-03 season at the NCAA Frozen 4 Saturday night, but Quinnipiac had other ideas. The Bobcats scored just 10 seconds into overtime after winning the opening faceoff, beating Minnesota 3-2 in a heartbreaking loss for the Gophers and Bob Motzko.

"Hardest day of my life," Gophers' senior defenseman and captain Brock Faber said in the locker room after the loss.

The Gophers had a 2-0 lead after two periods. John Mittelstadt scored at 5:35 of the first period to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead after Connor Kurth got a turnover and fed Mittelstadt with a wraparound pass for a tap-in score. In Thursday's Frozen 4 semifinal, his brother, Luke MIttelstadt, had a pair of third period goals to lift Minnesota over Boston University. 

The Gophers made it 2-0 at 4:24 of the second period after a Brock Faber shot caromed to Jaxon Nelson, who found the net with a rebound goal. Quinnipiac dominated the rest of the game.

The Bobcats scored at 7:41 of the second period to cut Minnesota’s lead to 2-1. They tied it with 2:47 to play, scoring on the power play after Logan Cooley was called for high sticking. Quinnipiac pulled its goalie to have a 6-on-4 advantage, and the Bobcats scored the tying goal.

Jacob Quillan won it for the Bobcats just 10 seconds into overtime, after Quinnipiac won the opening face-off. He got a perfect pass and beat Justen Close for the game-winning goal.

The Gophers played on their heels from the second they went up 2-0, and it cost them a national championship. They were previously 22-0 when leading after two periods this season. The Bobcats out-shot the Gophers 30-15 for the game, and 25-8 over the final two periods, including 14-2 in the third period.

The Gophers are now 5-8 in national title games, haven't won a national championship since the 2002-03 season.

Minnesota entered the NCAA Tournament the No. 1 overall seed, and had beaten three opponents by a combined 19-5 heading into Saturday night's national championship. The Gophers' skill and speed was negated by Quinnipiac's experience and physicality.

The Gophers' top line all year, Jimmy Snuggerud, Cooley and Matthew Knies, didn't have any points Saturday and Snuggerud managed three shots.

Minnesota won the Big Ten regular season title. It was the best team in college hockey most of the season. The Gophers had three All-Americans, two finalists for the Hobey Baker Award and Motzko was the national Coach of the Year. But for one night, it wasn't enough to come home from Florida a champion.

The Gophers' season ends with a 29-10-1 record.