A future Big Ten rivalry in the making takes some of its first steps Saturday. No. 5 Minnesota (23-11-3) begins the NCAA tournament against No. 12 Notre Dame (21-11-5), which will join the Big Ten next season, Saturday. “[Notre Dame is] a lot like our own team,” said head coach Don Lucia.
Minnesota fell out of the Big Ten Tournament in its first game Friday, but the Gophers still finished the weekend on top. While the team didn’t win, the Gophers were selected as a one-seed for the NCAA Tournament Sunday and will play No. 10 seed Notre Dame in Manchester, New Hampshire on Saturday. The rollercoaster weekend for Minnesota started Friday when the team played the longest game in Big Ten Tournament history with Penn State. The Gophers looked poised to hold off the Nittany Lions offense in the second overtime period, but the lone penalty in extra minutes on Minnesota proved fatal. A turnover along the boards put the Nittany Lions defenseman Erik Autio open in front of the Minnesota net and he broke the 3-3 tie 93:33 into the conference game, sending Penn State to its first Big Ten Tournament title game. Minnesota’s key to the extended game was its goaltender — Eric Schierhorn. In one of the strongest performances in his two years with the Gophers, the sophomore goalie faced 63 shots and saved 59 of them, a career-high for saves in a game. “The goalies played [well],” head coach Don Lucia told the media Friday.
In his last weekend at Mariucci Arena, Minnesota’s captain has the opportunity to break out of his tie for 28th place in all-time Gophers scoring. Senior Justin Kloos is about to play his last series on home ice this weekend against Michigan State and the emotions are up in the air. “[I’m] not really sure what to expect,” Kloos said.
With the conference lead at stake and down 1-0 in the series, the Gophers came away with a victory Saturday and again put themselves atop the Big Ten. Michigan bested Minnesota 5-3 Friday, but the No. 5-ranked Gophers weren’t ready to be swept by the Wolverines and won 4-1 Saturday. “We played the game the right way [Saturday],” head coach Don Lucia told reporters Saturday.
Sixty-six college hockey players, including three Gophers, have been nominated for this year’s Hobey Baker award. The award’s history is deeply rooted in the state.
Minnesota’s “Captain Clutch” struck again over the weekend to help the Gophers hang onto a Big Ten conference lead.
The Gophers had more than doubled the Badgers in shots Friday, but it wasn’t enough to lead to victory. No. 4 Minnesota (20-9-2, 11-4-0 Big Ten) lost to No. 19 Wisconsin (17-10-1, 11-4-0 Big Ten) 3-2 Friday. The teams are now tied for first in the Big Ten standings.
There’s no better time for a team to have all its top scorers playing their best than just a few weeks before the playoffs. The Gophers are that team, and goal scoring is their strength. “Our mindset is incredible,” said forward Tyler Sheehy.
Late-game heroics from captain Justin Kloos and forward Rem Pitlick led the Gophers to two victories over the weekend. No. 5 Minnesota (20-8-2, 11-3-0 Big Ten) swept No. 9 Penn State (18-8-2, 7-6-1 Big Ten) with late goals from captain Justin Kloos and forward Rem Pitlick to win 6-3 Friday and a thrilling 4-3 overtime win Saturday.
Hockey and education go hand in hand for Gophers forward Leon Bristedt. The junior has had to adjust to a new team and a new country in the past three years but is taking it all in stride. “It’s been up and down this season,” Bristedt said.