"It is surreal right now," goalie Kent Patterson said after the Gophers' 2-1 victory Saturday over Wisconsin. It clinched an outright WCHA title for them, which means they don't have to share the MacNaughton Cup.
If the Gophers had lost to the Badgers in their final regular-season game, Minnesota Duluth could have tied them for first place with a victory at St. Cloud State. As it turned out, UMD and SCSU tied 3-3 after a scoreless overtime.
So the Gophers finished 20-8-0 in the conference for 40 points, the Bulldogs 16-7-5 for 37 points.
"Our senior class has been working for moments like this for our whole four years," Patterson said. "There is no better feeling getting this trophy in this building in front of this great crowd."
Patterson said he threw a first pump when Erik Haula of the Gophers scored a short-handed goal five minutes into the third period to tie the score at 1-1. "And then, when we got the second one," Patterson said, "I threw an even harder one."
Sophomore defenseman Nate Schmidt scored the second goal on a power play three minutes after Haula's goal.
* On whether he liked the view from the Gophers' bench Friday after he was pulled for the third period: "No, I have seen it too many times."
* On the crowd: "You could definitely tell when we got that short-handed goal. Even on big hits, blocked shots, the crowd was into it. We just have great fans here at Mariucci. We wanted to be able to give them something back tonight and we did."
* On his defensemen: "Our D-corps has been there all year. They are going to have their ups and their downs, but the majority of the year, they have been there. They have been my backbone and helped me out when I have had my back turned. Just clearing shots, second chances. Blocking shots. Guys get the puck out.. I can't compliment them enough."
* On what's ahead: "This is the first step on our road. We have been working all season for this night. Starting next week, it is playoff time. And we are ready for that, we are ready to go."
THIS AND THAT
* Saturday was only the third time this season the Gophers have won after trailing after two periods. Their record in those situations is 3-8-1.
* Erik Haula's short-handed goal was the 200th point by a sophomore for the Gophers this season. Nate Schmidt's power-play goal three minutes later was the 201st.
Eleven sophomores have combined for 72 goals and 129 assists.
The 13 other players on the team have 57 goals and 87 assists for 144 points.