Daniel Ciampini is looking to help lead Union College to its first NCAA title victory. (Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)
By Darian Somers
It was one man who put Union in the championship game, and it was one very late shot that did the same for Minnesota.
Now, those two teams will square off in one last game to decide the 2014 NCAA national champion at 7:30 Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. It’ll be the first meeting between the schools since 2010, when the Dutchmen went to Minnesota and upended the Gophers in overtime, 3-2.
For the No. 1-seeded Gophers, who got to the final by a literal last second shot win over North Dakota, it’s familiar ground — this will be the school’s 11th national title appearance. But it’s unfamiliar territory for No. 3 Union, which will be playing in its first NCAA title game.
McMahon: Frozen Four recap: Minnesota, Union advance to national championship game
Led by Daniel Carr, Flyers draft pick Shayne Gostisbehere and Daniel Ciampini — the latter of whom scored a hat trick to lead Union past No. 2 seed Boston College on Thursday — the Dutchmen have the second-best offense in the country, averaging 3.73 goals per game. They also boast the best winning percentage in all of college hockey, at .805.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota is consistently ranked as one of the top teams in the country, and is looking for its first national title since 2003, when Don Lucia guided the Gophers to its second championship in as many years. Along with a deep bench, the Gophers are led offensively by Kyle Rau, who has 39 points this year, and Sam Warning, who has 33. Nine Gophers have 20 or more points this year, and five of them have 13 or more goals. The young Gopher team, made up of eight freshmen who have combined for 56 goals this season, also has one of the best goalies in the country in Tampa Bay draft pick Adam Wilcox. The Mike Richter Finalist had the second-best save percentage (.935) and goals against average (1.79), playing in 40 games this season with 37 starts. His .914% winning percentage also ranks inside the top 10 of the country.
There’s a lot to live up to after two tremendous and dramatic semifinal games, but this championship game certainly has enough fascinating storylines — Adam Wilcox vs. the country’s 2nd-best offense, experience in the title game vs. a team hungry for its first championship — to make it a Frozen Four final to remember.