BUFFALO — Despite playing a closer game than the 4-1 final score would indicate, Sabres prospect Jacob Bryson and the Providence College Friars fell to the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs on Thursday evening in the NCAA Frozen Four semifinals at Key Bank Center.
Minnesota-Duluth moves on to Saturday, where it'll take on the winner of Thursday's late Denver-UMass game.
After a scoreless first, both teams scored in the second period and remained tied into the third. A goal by Minnesota-Duluth’s Billy Exell broke the stalemate at the 10:07 mark. Exell’s goal came after the Bulldogs killed off a lengthy five-on-three advantage.
“It did swing momentum,” said Friars head coach Nate Leaman. “I'm not going to lie to you. It did.”
Bryson, a junior defenseman with Providence, was a fourth round pick for the Sabres in 2017. He’s participated in the Sabres’ last two development camps and could sign an NHL deal this summer. The London, Ontario native had four goals and 28 points in 48 games this season.
For his part, Bryson deferred when asked about his plans to sign with the Sabres for 2019-20.
“I'm really not focused on that right now,” he said. “I'm so excited how my team played tonight, how we've been over the season. We came so far, did such a great job. That's really what I'm focused on right now.”
Bryson recorded an assist on the only Providence goal, after a rebound from his shot from the point was put in by Josh Wilkins.
While disappointed by the outcome, Leaman said players like Bryson were the reason the Friars made it to the Frozen Four, along with the play of the team’s seniors.
“I thought they carried the flag very well,” he said. “I think when they came into our program, they chose our program because we had been to the NCAA Tournament, we had one national championship. But those are high standards to live by.”
Leaman said the players had been great since they came into the program as freshmen.
“They had an unbelievable opportunity and they made the most of it,” he said. “Just very proud of them. Very thankful that you recruit guys like that, that are that good of kids and that good of hockey players. You're a pretty lucky coach.”
Bryson was effusive in his praise of Buffalo and Western New York, even after the loss.
“It was an awesome experience, being here in Buffalo,” he said. “I know myself and my teammates definitely enjoyed the hospitality we got from Buffalo.”
Seeing the various college hockey jerseys dotting the crowd before the game stuck out, Bryson said.
“The support was awesome,” he said. “it was kind of cool to see a jersey from almost any and every NCAA team in the arena. I thought that what you have is special. That shows you how far college hockey has come.”