Gophers Face-Off Against Union College in NCAA Men's Hockey Championship

Updated: 04/14/2014 1:32 PM
Created: 04/12/2014 6:32 PM
By: Megan Stewart

It's the chance every college hockey player wants - a rare shot at closing out a season with a national championship.

The University of Minnesota men's hockey team is facing off against Union College for the NCAA Division I championship title in Philadelphia Saturday evening.

It's an even more rare shot at closing a career with a championship for players who are seniors in college.

For the five seniors on Minnesota's team, practices in Philadelphia have been the last they'll have as Gophers. They joined the team in a down period that saw the Gophers miss the NCAA tournament three straight years.

Since then, it's been three straight conference titles, two Frozen Fours and a shot at a national championship. It's been 11 years since Minnesota connected back-to-back championships to bring their total title haul to five.

Minnesota fans were familiar with the first team they saw at the Frozen Four on Thursday - former WCHA rival University of North Dakota. The Gophers were able to pull off a win on a last-second goal.

Union, a small liberal arts college in New York, is a bit of a mystery.

They may not be a household name, but they upset Boston College in their semifinal game Thursday night.

This is their second Frozen Four in three years.  They were there with the Gophers in Tampa Bay two years ago.

Union is the No. 3 overall seed in the tournament. Minnesota is the No. 1-overall seed, making the lowest combined seed in a title game since they started this format in 2003.

The two teams' 12 combined losses this season are the fewest for championship opponents since 1996.

Even if Minnesota doesn't win on Saturday night, the State of Hockey could still claim a champion. Union junior Sam Coatta is a 2009 graduate of Minnetonka High School. Fellow Minnetonka grad Vinny Lettieri is a freshman on Minnesota's team.

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