Minnesota's season came down to Notre Dame. With a win, it continued; with a loss, it was over.
A controversial hooking call was called on Gophers forward Tyler Sheehy to give the Fighting Irish a power play in the first minute of overtime. Notre Dame's Michael Graham scored 22 seconds later — ending Minnesota's season.
"That was an absolute travesty, the way that game ended," head coach Bob Motzko told reporters after the game. "Play it however you want to play it. It was a travesty."
Minnesota lost to Notre Dame 2-1 on Saturday night in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament at the Compton Family Ice Arena at Notre Dame. The game will likely be the last for the Gophers. Their chances at making it to the NCAA tournament automatically are slim due to their Pairwise ranking of 21 at the time of the loss.
The Gophers went into overtime tied up 1-1. Notre Dame's Cam Morrison scored the first goal of the game with two minutes played to give the fighting Irish a 1-0 lead.
Then Gophers Sampo Ranta scored by deflecting defenseman Ben Brinkman's shot into the net at 14:15 left in the first to tie the game. It was the first shot of the game for the Gophers.
Over 54 minutes later, with 25 more shots on goal for the Gophers and 30 more on goal for the Fighting Irish, the two teams were tied up 1-1. Minnesota goaltender Mat Robson and Notre Dame goalie Cale Morris were named as two of three finalists for the Big Ten goalie of the year last week.
"He’s a great goalie. He’s the backbone for us. He’s the first person we trust," Ranta told reporters after the game.
Then, with 31 seconds played in the 20-minute overtime period, the officials called a penalty on Sheehy.
Gophers forward Brent Gates Jr. passed the puck from near his own blue line by the boards. He was passing the puck to Gophers defense Ryan Zuhlsdorf.
The puck hit Zuhlsdorf's stick, and he didn't catch it clean.
The puck went out of reach near where Sheehy was skating, and Sheehy turned around to reel it in. This turning around happened while the Notre Dame defender Colin Theisen stepped up to grab that puck, and Sheehy's stick caught the jersey of Theisen.
Theisen almost fell down, but quickly regained his footing. Sheehy got the hooking penalty.
“I haven’t seen a call that bad in a long time, especially in a game like that,” Sheehy told reporters. “They put their whistles away for most of the third period. Obviously, a terrible call there in overtime.”
Notre Dame scored on the power play right away, and the Gophers' season ended.
Minnesota needed to win the Big Ten Tournament, which gives a team an automatic bid into the 16-team field of the NCAA Tournament. The Gophers finished No. 21 in the Pairwise rankings and 18-16-4 on the season in Motzko's first season as the head coach.
Now the team will wait to see what players could depart early, and where the graduating seniors could sign in NHL contracts.