The Minnesota Golden Gophers arrived in Boston for last year's Frozen Four looking to win a National Title. One game in, they were disappointed as Minnesota State sent the Gophers home with a 5-1 loss. Fast forward a year and the Gophers are back looking for glory again, albeit in a different city with another group of opponents standing in their way. Although Minnesota sports betting is yet to become legal, the Golden Gophers are expected to be popular among Minnesota sportsbooks once they become live in the state.
Minnesota has spent the entire year as either the first or second-ranked team in the nation and entered the NCAA men’s final tournament in the top spot. They have cruised to the Frozen Four, defeating Canisius College handily and managing a 4-1 win over St. Cloud State to advance to this year's final being hosted in Tampa Bay. Not only are they ranked number one, but they are also the betting favorite according to DraftKings, which has the Gophers at +150 to win it all, ahead of Michigan at +250 and Quinnipiac and Boston University at +390. When sports betting becomes legal in the state, Minnesota DraftKings Sportsbook will have all the latest odds for Minnesota sports.
Golden Gophers Open Tournament vs Boston University
The Golden Gophers are looking to end a two-decade-long championship drought as they haven’t won the NCAA title since winning it in back-to-back years in 2002 and 2003. In a hockey-crazed state like Minnesota this stretch seems even longer. They have been to the Frozen Four on four separate occasions, including losing in the Final in 2014 and are desperate to end the futility this year.
The first team standing in their way are the Boston University Terriers, who Minnesota meets on Thursday, April 6th for the tournament-opening semifinal game. Boston came into the tournament as the fifth seed and has advanced to the final four after a 29-10 record in the regular season. They are led by star defenseman Lane Hutson, an offensive dynamo who makes their offense exciting and unpredictable. Minnesota is -185 on the moneyline to win the game and advance to the finals.
The Other Two Frozen Four Teams
Quinnipiac and Michigan will meet in the other semifinal and both have had strong seasons. Michigan is favored to win the game with odds of -165, according to BetMGM sportsbook, and presents the biggest challenge to the Golden Gophers considering they have recently defeated them in the Big Ten Championship game. Expect BetMGM sportsbook Minnesota to be among the top operators once sports betting becomes live in the state. The Wolverines are led by Adam Fantilli, who is projected to go second overall in this year's NHL Draft behind phenom Connor Bedard. Fantilli put up 29 goals and 35 assists and is one of three Hobey Baker finalists. The Wolverines are looking to win the title for the first time since 1998.
Despite already losing to Michigan earlier this year Minnesota is still rightfully the favorite. One of the biggest reasons is the play of their elite first line of Jimmy Snuggerud, Logan Cooley and Matthew Knies. These three have led the offense for a team that averages over four goals per game, a fact made more impressive when you consider that Cooley and Snuggerud are both freshmen. The two rookies combined for 101 points this year and Cooley and Knies are the other two finalists for the Hobey Baker award.
Minnesota's Path to Frozen Four Victory
The Gophers don’t solely rely on the scoring exploits of their top trio. Minnesota returned their top three defensemen from last season’s squad in Brock Faber, Jackson LaCombe, and Ryan Johnson, giving the team some much-needed veteran leadership, something they will need with ten freshmen on the roster, including the aforementioned Cooley and Snuggerud. After last season, at least one of the three was expected to turn pro but all decided to come back with one singular goal - to win a National Championship. Benefitting from their presence on the back end is goalie Justen Close, who is 25-9-1 on the season and has a GAA of 1.99.
It will be a tough tournament with three strong opponents standing in Minnesota’s way, but they are more prepared than they have been in years to end their title drought. The experience of last season’s defeat combined with the freshman scoring from players like Cooley and Snuggerud give them a dangerous combination that Minnesota fans and bettors should be very excited about.