Gophers rout Penn State again to win Big Ten hockey title, read Saturday night's game story.
What was supposed to be a dramatic weekend for the Big Ten hockey conference ended without much drama on Saturday night at Mariucci Arena and as predicted six months ago. The Gophers knew they had to win two games to have a chance at winning a regular-season championship and they did so in dominating fashion.
They outscored Penn State 11-2 to claim their first series sweep in a month, and were the only team in the race for the conference title to finish the weekend unscathed. Michigan State and Michigan both lost chances to claim a least a share of the championship by upsetting one another in front of their home crowds in the home-and-home series.
Penn State lost out on its shot at the title after being shut out on Friday night, while the Gophers managed to fulfill the coaches' preseason prediction that they would win it all once again.
"We knew that if we wanted to win a Big Ten championship we had to play our best hockey," sophomore forward Hudson Fasching said after a career-best four-point effort. "With our backs up against the wall this weekend, we played our best for sure."
Gophers coach Don Lucia didn't waste any time studying the tiebreakers for the Big Ten tournament seeding process, despite entering the final regular-season series with four teams in the hunt for a title and a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament. Instead, he emphasized to his team that all they could control was winning, and they "answered the bell" the way he thought they would.
Winning helped keep the Gophers' NCAA tournament aspirations alive, but the Big Ten title didn't do much for their standing in the PairWise rankings.
They jumped one spot with each victory this weekend, but are still on the bubble at No. 12. St. Cloud State actually jumped the Gophers in the PairWise after sweeping ranked Nebraska Omaha in the first round of the NCHC playoffs.
The Huskies finished sixth in the NCHC regular-season standings and are only a game above .500 (18-17-1), but have a better RPI than the Gophers and sit at No. 11 in the PairWise.
Minnesota State and Minnesota Duluth are No. 2 and 3, respectively, in the PairWise.
Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky on the Gophers' Big Ten title: "They get there in the end and I think it's very fitting. I think they're an excellent team. I think you can make a lot of arguments why they deserve to win it and actually they put it together when it mattered most. If this weekend was any indication, they certainly seem deserving."
Saturday’s box score.
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Gophers senior forward Kyle Rau
Gophers coach Don Lucia