Minneapolis, MN – Playoffs are upon us, and the Gophers still have a sour taste in their mouths after the way the Big Ten tournament ended last year.
Minnesota’s newly-minted Big Ten Hockey honorees spoke about last season’s 4-3 loss to Michigan in the Big Ten playoff championship this week, while looking forward to making this year’s rematch a different outcome.
Matthew Knies was looking forward to the “revenge” game against the Wolverines, describing last year’s conference championship game as “the most memorable game” he had played in at Minnesota. “We had almost people sitting in the stairs, so it was an electric atmosphere, the loudest building we’ve been in.” The 2022-2023 Big Ten Player of the year added “I’m hoping it’s going to be the same environment [this year]. I think it’s going to get a lot of these freshmen really excited.”
The 21-22 and 22-23 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Brock Faber said that the Michigan games have “turned into quite the rivalry,” adding that “they don’t like us, we don’t like them, it’s fun. It’s going to be loud in there this weekend.”
Bob Motzko, the 22-23 Big Ten Coach of the Year, said that Michigan “look[s] like Michigan to me,” citing their up-and-down style and talent up and down the roster as common threads connecting this version of the Wolverines to prior models.
Minnesota and Michigan both needed to win their semifinal games to get to the championship round, and both did so handily.
The Gophers beat Michigan State for the fifth time this season and 14th in a row, winning the semifinal 5-1 to advance to the title game. Michigan State took a 1-0 lead early in the first period on a powerplay, but Minnesota reeled off five-straight goals (from Jaxson Nelson, John Mittelstadt, Aaron Huglen, and Logan Cooley x2) to skate to an easy victory. The Gophers ended up outscoring Michigan State 30-7 in their five contests this season.
Michigan, on the other hand, had an easier time with Ohio State than they did with Wisconsin in the first round of the tournament. The Wolverines dismantled the Buckeyes by a 7-3 final score, scoring in the first minute of the game and never really looking back. Adam Fantilli scored two goals, boosting his total to 27 (second in the nation to WMU’s Jason Polin. Fantilli’s 60 points leads the country. Shutting down Fantilli (as much as is possible) will be the name of the game for the Gophers in Saturday’s championship final.
Minnesota can clinch the #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament with a victory on Saturday, while it looks like a loss to Michigan plus Quinnipiac winning the ECAC results in the Gophers dropping down to #2 in most scenarios (although there are situations where a Gopher loss and a Quinnipiac win still leaves Minnesota with the #1 overall seed… as usual with the Pairwise, every other game matters). With the AH winner guaranteed to be either Canisius or Holy Cross (the current #43 and 44 teams in the Pairwise), maintaining that #1 seed is the best path to an easier first-round matchup for the Gophers’ NCAA title run.
The puck drops at 7PM Saturday evening for another chance to raise a banner for this 22-23 Gopher team. The game has been sold out since Monday, but tickets may still be available on the secondary market. If you’re attending the game, it’s a “Gold Out”, so wear your gold as you cheer the Gophers on to the Big Ten title!
Come one who is not PUMPED for this game?
Trouble is, it’s not just Fantilli, but also Brindley, and McGroarty – known as the Big F*cking Men’s line around the Big Ten . . .