Future North Star College Cups will have a lot to live up to. The inaugural tournament featuring instate rivals produced two overtime games and required a shootout to determine its champion.
The Gophers will be the first Minnesota college hockey team to etch its name on the wooden cup after a 2-0 shootout victory over Minnesota Duluth on Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center.
The game officially ended in a 4-4 tie in front of an announced crowd of 14,518.
Kyle Rau and Seth Ambroz scored the shootout goals, while Gophers goaltender Adam Wilcox stuffed the Bulldogs’ two attempts. Wilcox also tied his career high in saves, set Friday night, with 38 to earn tournament MVP.
It’s the first shootout victory for the Gophers (18-2-4) in four chances this season.
“It’s one of the better tournaments I’ve been a part of,” Ambroz said. “How good the teams in Minnesota are, it just really showed this weekend. All the games just came down to the wire.”
The state tournament delivered four competitive games and attracted nearly 30,000 fans wearing Gophers, UMD, St. Cloud State and Minnesota State Mankato jerseys.
Both days of hockey were extended with overtime games. It was everything the planning committee had hoped for.
“I thought for the first tournament, it was a great start,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “I think you saw that the instate pride was there, which was good. … All in all, it was good entertaining weekend of college hockey like we hoped it would be for this event.”
The entertainment was endless on Saturday. St. Cloud State and Minnesota State Mankato combined for 10 goals in the consolation game. Then the championship kicked off with three goals in 39 seconds midway through the first period.
Rau started the string of goals. Eighteen seconds later, Caleb Herbert scored for UMD (10-9-3). The public announcer couldn’t even finish the scoring summary before Austin Farley scored another Bulldogs goal 21 seconds later.
Nate Condon didn’t let UMD’s 2-1 lead last long. He scored the Gophers’ first power-play goal 4:25 later. The score remained stuck at 2-2 until the Gophers’ power play caught fire once again.
Special teams for the Gophers scored three goals on Saturday night, two in the third period, for a total of five over the weekend.
Hudson Fasching finished off Mike Reilly’s shot for a 3-2 Gophers’ lead on a power play early in the third. Travis Boyd scored the third power-play goal midway through the period on another assist by Reilly.
The Gophers held the longest lead, 4-3, for 6:10, but Joe Basaraba tied the score once more at 4 at 17:51 of the third period.
UMD coach Scott Sandelin and forward Caleb Herbert, who had a goal and assist, felt like it was one of the Bulldogs’ better efforts this season.
Wilcox won’t argue with them.
“All four teams are unbelievable,” he said. “It’s one of our only chances to win that instate championship, and even though it came in the shootout, we get the trophy for a year.”