For Second Straight Year, Michigan Wins Big Ten Tournament on Mariucci Ice

Gophers Look Ahead to NCAA Bracket Selection Sunday

Brody Lamb gets Minnesota on the board. Photo by Craig Cotner

Minneapolis, MN – The Michigan Wolverines might be getting used to the unfriendly confines of Mariucci Arena.

For the second straight season, the Wolverines (24-11-3) beat the Minnesota Gophers (26-9-1) in the Big Ten Championship Game to hoist the Big Ten playoff trophy. The Gophers took a 3-2 third-period lead before Michigan scored two unanswered goals to win the game 4-3. Both teams now look ahead to the NCAA tournament, where each will be a #1 seed.

Rhett Pitlick celebrates a ridiculous goal. Photo by Craig Cotner

The Gophers played a good first period, jumping out to an early 1-0 lead on Brody Lamb’s third goal of the season. Lamb took a beautiful pass from Logan Cooley on a two-on-one rush to beat Michigan’s Erik Portillo and put Minnesota up by one.

Michigan came out and flat-out won the rest of the game, with Rutger McGroarty socring twice in 34 seconds (once on a rebound, once on a deflection off the end-wall) to put the Wolverines ahead 2-1 early in the second. Logan Cooley tied the game for the Gophers, this time as the recipient of a two-on-one pass from Jimmy Snuggerud midway through the middle frame. The goal was against the run of play and got Minnesota mentally back in the game after a lull in their concentration throughout the early part of the second. The teams entered the third tied 2-2

The Gophers took the lead early in the third period on a stunning Rhett Pitlick goal. Pitlick rushed the puck out of the Minnesota zone one-on-one, before putting on about five dekes and dropping the Michigan defender. Pitlick then roofed a wrister from in close on Portillo, giving Minnesota a 3-2 lead at 1:57 of the final frame.

Portillo trying to explain why he knocked the net off for the 15th time. Photo by Craig Cotner

Michigan came roaring back, making it a 3-3 game at 5:29 on a seeing-eye wrister from the blueline by Seamus Casey. Minnesota challenged the goal for offsides, but after a short review the referees determined that all Wolverine players had touched up prior to the attacking player possessing the puck in the offensive zone.

The Wolverines scored the game-winner at 11:46 of the third, when Dylan Duke, after sliding into the Gopher crease, was somehow able to direct a puck past Justen Close and into the net.

Although the Gophers put up a valiant effort to tie the game late, they weren’t able to beat Portillo again (who got help from the loose goal pegs once or twice more than a neutral observer would deem appropriate), and in the end it was the same 4-3 Michigan scoreline as last season’s title game.

Now, both teams look ahead to the NCAA Selection Show, to be held Sunday at 5:30 PM on ESPNU. Michigan projects to be the #3 overall seed, while the Gophers are #1 overall. Nobody knows what the committee may do, but most Pairwise-watchers think that Minnesota will face Atlantic Hockey tourney-winners Canisius in Fargo for the first round. This writer’s amateur bracket prediction is below:

Fargo: 1 Minnesota vs. 16 Canisius, 7 Harvard vs. 9 Ohio State

Bridgeport: 2 Quinnipiac vs. 14 Merrimack, 6 St. Cloud vs. 11 Mankato

Allentown: 3 Michigan vs. 15 Colgate, 8 Penn State vs. 10 Michigan Tech

Manchester: 4 Denver vs. 13 Cornell, 5 BU vs. 12 Western Michigan

The student section in shock after the Pitlick goal. Photo by Craig Cotner


About Chris Eckes 180 Articles
Gopher Hockey fan since birth. Avid golfer. Fantasy Sports enthusiast.