The Sampo Ranta & Co. Show will go on for one more night in South Bend, Ind.
A day after scoring the winning goal in overtime against Michigan State in the Big Ten hockey tournament, Ranta, standout junior for the Gophers, scored with 4 minutes, 26 seconds left in the third period, forcing OT vs. Michigan as Minnesota rallied from a two-goal, third-period deficit.
Given that new life, the Gophers won when junior captain Sammy Walker scored on a rebound 6 minutes into overtime for a 3-2 semifinal victory.
The Gophers will play top-seeded Wisconsin, a 4-3 overtime winner over Penn State, in Tuesday night's championship game.
"We had a good feel, and we stuck with it, both nights," Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. "We didn't get rattled; we didn't get flustered."
Nathan Burke's third-period goal started the comeback for the Gophers (22-6). Goalie Jack LaFontaine made 31 saves through regulation and four in overtime for his 20th victory.
Michigan goalie Strauss Mann, who carried a three-game Big Ten tournament shutout streak into the semifinal, stopped 37 shots, including six in the extra session. Kent Johnson and Garrett Van Wyhe scored for the Wolverines (15-10-1).
Shortly before Walker's winning, Scott Reedy rang a puck off the crossbar. With the Gophers applying heavy pressure, Ben Brinkman fired a shot that Mann kicked out. Walker pounced on the puck and deposited it into the right side of a yawning net.
"It went off the pad, right to me," Walker said of his 13th goal of the season. "One of the easier goals I've scored."
Said Motzko, "Your best player's got to come through, and he was outstanding tonight."
The Gophers' second rally in as many days came after a sluggish opening two periods. They gave up Johnson's power-play goal 3:44 into the game, then had to kill two penalties in the second period.
"That's when we lost our energy," Motzko said. And that's when Michigan pushed its lead to 2-0 on Van Wyhe's goal.
Between periods, Motzko challenged his team to win first five minutes of the third, and it did so on Burke's goal at 4:07 — a backhander between Mann's legs. "Any shot's a good shot," Burke said, repeating a mantra of playoff hockey.
Then it was Ranta's turn in the spotlight again, and he took it by collecting puck that deflected off a Michigan player's skate and firing a shot under Mann's pads, knotting the score on his 18th goal of the year.
"Sampo's just been very consistent all year," Motzko said. "There's not many weekends he's not found the net."
The Gophers also received a boost from freshman defenseman Brock Faber, who slid hard headfirst into the end boards on Sunday and was considered by Motzko as doubtful to play. Faber had other ideas and help shut down the potent Wolverines offense.
"There are a lot of athletes who wouldn't have played tonight," Motzko said. "… That is one tough customer."
Afterward, the Gophers turned their attention to Wisconsin, a team that embarrassed them 8-1 on Feb. 6 in Minneapolis. Burke senses a renewed confidence from the past two days.
"It speaks a lot that our team is willing to dig deep and get gritty," Burke said, "and do the job that needs to be done."
The Star Tribune did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.