Michigan again denies Gophers for Big Ten men’s hockey tournament title

The words came out in low, disappointed tones Saturday night in a makeshift media room at 3M Arena in Mariucci, as Gophers players and coach Bob Motzko discussed their 4-3 loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament championship game for the second straight. year.

“We made mistakes that cost us dearly,” said junior defenseman and captain Brock Faber.

“We have to be better,” senior defenseman Jackson LaCombe said.

“I’m tired of learning [this way]” Motzko said, ”but maybe we’ll need it.

In a back-and-forth game between two of college hockey’s blue bloods in front of a sell-out crowd of 10,305, fourth-seeded Michigan beat the No. 1 Gophers erasing a 3-2 deficit in third. period on goals from Seamus Casey and Dylan Duc.

Brody Lamb, Logan Cooley and Rhett Pitlick scored for the Gophers, who got 27 saves from Justen Close. Rutger McGroarty scored Michigan’s first two goals and Erik Portillo made 22 saves.

The Wolverines (24-11-3) and Gophers (26-9-1) will be the No. 1 regional seeds when the NCAA announces its tournament field at 5:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPN. Minnesota secured the No. 1 seed overall in the NCAA on Friday night when No. 2 Quinnipiac lost in the semifinals of the CEAC Tournament. The Gophers will almost certainly be assigned to the Fargo Regional, which will be played Thursday and Saturday. The Gophers’ opponent will likely be Canisius, who beat Holy Cross 3-0 in the Atlantic Hockey Association title game.

With the victory, Michigan moved to No. 3 in the PairWise rankings, the formula the NCAA uses to fill its 16-team tournament field. The Wolverines finished just ahead of Denver, who will be the No. 4 seed overall.

“We’ve been very good this year – both when they scored and when we scored to go 4-3 up – talking about a ‘next shift’ mentality, coming back and following up,” Wolverines interim head coach Brandon Naurato said. .

The Gophers took a 3-2 lead with 1:57 remaining in the third period thanks to a spectacular play from Pitlick.

After receiving a pass from Bryce Brodzinski, Pitlick skated onto the ice with Michigan defenseman Steven Holtz right in front of him. Pitlick flicked the stick back and forth, spinning Holtz to the point that he fell and ending the game by firing a shot past Portillo.

Then came Michigan’s response.

The Wolverines tied the game 3-3 at 5:29 on a point shot from Casey after a Gophers turnover. Motzko challenged the offsides, but the goal was upheld after review. “They said he scored,” Motzko said. “We just looked, and it looks like [the officials] you found.”

Duke gave the Wolverines a 4-3 lead at 11:46 when the Gophers failed to clear the area. Duke, falling past the crease, slid the puck past a sprawling close.

“It was a heavyweight tilt, and you can’t make those kinds of mistakes in the third period,” Motzko said.

The Gophers took a 1-0 lead at 6:52 of the first when Cooley blocked a shot, started a breakaway and fed Lamb for the goal as the Mariucci crowd roared.

Michigan responded in the second period when McGroarty scored two goals 34 seconds apart to give Wolverines a 2-1 lead.

The Gophers tied it 2-2 at 10:48 of the second when Cooley finished a two-for-none run with Jimmy Snuggerud after a Matthew Knies takeaway.

After the game, Motzko reassured himself that the loss didn’t end the Gophers’ season:

“It’s going to help us – not the loss; the loss stings – but to play an intense game.”

Michigan forward Adam Fantilli was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Joining him on the All-Tournament squad are McGroarty and Cooley up front, Casey and Hughes in defense and Close in goal.


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