Gophers Win Fourth-Straight Conference Crown
MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) – For the first time in program history, the No. 15 Gopher Hockey team has won four-straight regular-season conference championships after Saturday’s 6-2 win over Penn State in the regular-season finale clinched back-to-back Big Ten titles for the Maroon & Gold.
Minnesota (21-12-3 overall, 12-5-3-0 Big Ten) has now won two-straight Big Ten regular-season championships after winning the MacNaughton Cup as WCHA regular-season champions in the team’s final two seasons in the league (co-champions in 2012-13). The conference title stands as the 16th overall in Gopher Hockey’s 94-year history.
Hudson Fasching (two goals, two assists), Mike Reilly (two assists) and Kyle Rau (two goals) tallied multi-point games for the second night in a row with Fasching’s four points serving as a new career high for the sophomore. Freshman Leon Bristedt also added a pair of assists while freshman defenseman Ryan Collins scored his first career goal for the Maroon & Gold.
While the Gophers dominated the last 40 minutes of play, things didn’t start off quite the way Minnesota wanted. Penn State jumped out to an early lead when Max Gardiner scored at 15:16 of the first period, but the Gophers quickly replied with two goals in 20 seconds from Seth Ambroz and Hudson Fasching – both of whom tallied their 11th goals of the season in the opening stanza. Ambroz found the equalizer at 17:49 when he chopped home a loose puck off a setup by Travis Boyd and Mike Reilly, and Fasching did the same at 18:09 after a blast from the point by Jake Bischoff.
After a three-goal first period, the teams combined for five more in the second period. Rau, who tallied the overtime game winner to clinch last year’s Big Ten title, scored the game winner for the second-straight night when he notched his team-best 18th of the season at 4:32 of the second period. Fasching and Reilly assisted on the goal. Twenty-two of Rau’s 66 career goals have been game winners – the most among all active NCAA skaters. The senior captain also now ranks 19th all-time at Minnesota with 162 career points.
Penn State (18-14-4, 10-9-1-0) got one back at 6:30, but Collins scored his first as a Gopher just over a minute later at 7:33 on a feed from Christian Isackson with Rau and Fasching each picking up their second goals of the night at 13:44 and 16:09, respectively.
Adam Wilcox picked up his 71st career win – most among all active NCAA goaltenders – with a 29-save performance in net to move to 20-11-3 on the season. The Gophers outshot Penn State 34-31 while both teams went 2-for-2 on the penalty kill.
The Big Ten title locked up the top seed for Minnesota at next weekend’s Big Ten Ice Hockey Tournament at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The Gophers will take on the winner of Ohio State and Penn State in semifinal action on Friday.