Minnesota came back to win a game from two-goals down for the first time all season; Brock Faber back in the lineup
South Bend, IN – After coming from behind again with a berth in the Big Ten Playoff championship game on the line, perhaps it’s time to stop calling this Gopher team ‘good with the lead’.
The Minnesota Gophers (22-6-0 Overall) came back from a two-goal third period deficit against the Michigan Wolverines (15-10-1) to tie it, winning on a Sammy Walker overtime tally. The Gophers advance to the Big Ten title game, where they’ll face the Wisconsin Badgers.
Michigan had the lead early in the first period, thanks to a Kent Johnson powerplay goal at 3:44. The 1-0 Wolverine lead grew to 2-0 late in the 2nd as Garrett Van Wyhe scored on a nice passing play following a 4-on-2 rush up the ice.
Although the shots on goal were relatively even throughout the first two periods, Michigan’s 2-0 lead felt dominating, because Minnesota wasn’t doing much to get quality scoring chances. Rarely did the Gophers control the puck down low in front of the goal, or between the circles – credit to Michigan’s defense for keeping Minnesota out of the danger areas.
The Gophers started to apply more pressure in the third, though, with fourth-liner Nathan Burke giving Minnesota the spark it needed with a backhand goal at 4:07 of the final frame. For the second night in a row, Sampo Ranta scored a big goal, this one coming with less than 5 minutes left in the period to tie the game at 2-2.
The teams headed to OT, and Minnesota generally had the better of the play in the extra session. The Gophers generated 7 shots in six minutes of OT, culminating with Sammy Walker’s goal at 6:00 even into the extra session. Walker cleaned up a rebound off of a Ben Brinkman shot from the point, putting it past Michigan goalie Strauss Mann.
Jack LaFontaine won what is likely to be his last start against his former Michigan team, making 35 saves on 37 Wolverine shots.
Brock Faber returned Monday night for the Gophers after a scary collision into the end boards Sunday. Faber was doubtful to suit up for the Maroon and Gold, but coach Bob Motzko called him “tough” and indicated that he was gritting it out.
Minnesota battles Wisconsin Tuesday night for the playoff title, in a game that will likely determine who is a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Gophers and Badgers are virtually interchangeable when viewed head to head at this point, so the winner of Tuesday’s championship game will probably earn the #3 or #4 overall seed while the loser will likely be the #5 or #6 seed in the NCAA tourney.
Wisconsin won their Monday tilt in OT as well, with probable Hobey Baker winner Cole Caufield scoring late in the third to tie and again in overtime to win it for the Badgers. The Gophers will need to contain Caufield and Dylan Holloway in order to claim the Big Ten playoff championship.
The 7PM contest can be viewed on the Big Ten Network, streamed on FoxSports.com, and heard on AM1130.