Captain Kyle Rau provided the direction that the Gophers desperately needed.
The senior forward created just enough room to track down a rebound and sling the puck into the back of the net for a 3-2 overtime victory against RIT on Saturday night in the Mariucci Classic consolation game.
The No. 8 Gophers (10-5-1) had lost four of their previous seven games and were struggling to put away a five-win opponent when Rau produced the morale boost with the help of Hudson Fasching on the rush.
"It's good for us. It was a good tournament, we had some 90 shots," Rau said, "but we need to start scoring goals, and I think it starts with crashing the net on rebounds. So that was a good one for us and lucky to squeak away with a win.
"It felt good to win, but a loss and almost a tie in our building is unacceptable, so it was a good win, but we've got to get better. Way better."
Rau finished with a goal and assist. Vinni Lettieri and Mike Reilly scored the other goals for the Gophers. Adam Wilcox had 19 saves.
RIT's Mike Rotolo had 46 stops.
The Gophers finished in third place in their own tournament for the second year in a row.
RIT struggled to create scoring chances throughout the first 50 minutes but found a rhythm late to tie the score at 2-2 at 12:52 into the third period. The Tigers (5-10-3) nearly doubled their shots on goal in the final 10 minutes, and Brandon Thompson beat Wilcox up high to force overtime.
Wilcox had been impressive despite the little action he saw before the Tigers' late surge.
He stuffed a breakaway seconds after the Gophers pulled ahead 2-1 in the second period on Reilly's power-play goal and then showed off his glove by spoiling another RIT breakaway in the third.
The early return of Fasching and Ryan Collins from the World Junior Championship — the U.S. team lost in Friday's quarterfinals in Montreal — allowed more flexibility in the Gophers' lineup.
Coach Don Lucia chose to skate only 11 forwards and give the open spot to an extra defender.
The fourth-line combination of Christian Isackson and Lettieri with Taylor Cammarata as the rotating third piece provided an early boost by scoring the game's first goal 3:45 into the first period.
"We talked about getting more tips and rebound-type goals," Lucia said, "and we had the tip-goal and had the rebound-goal and we generated a whole lot of offense over the weekend … If you continue to do those things, those trends, then you'll start to get rewarded.
"This weekend, maybe we didn't get rewarded overall for [our] play, but the bottom line is we found a way to win. Our captain came through for us tonight."
UMass-Lowell 3, Merrimack 1: Dylan Zink scored late in the third period to give UMass-Lowell the lead and Evan Campbell secured the Mariucci Classic championship for the No. 9 River Hawks (14-3-3) with an empty-net goal in the closing minutes against No. 18 Merrimack (11-6-2).
Zink also scored the River Hawks first goal of the night in the second period after his team fell behind 1-0.
Goaltender Kevin Boyle finished with 21 saves to guide UMass-Lowell to its second holiday tournament title in consecutive weekends.