(Notre Dame, IN) – For the second time in program history, the Golden Gophers are Big Ten Tournament champions as No. 4 Minnesota beat No. 5 Wisconsin 6-4 on Tuesday night at Notre Dame’s Compton Family Ice Arena.
After a pair of overtime wins in the quarterfinals and semifinals, a battle between two of the nation’s top offenses favored the Maroon & Gold in their 100th season as 10 Gophers tallied points and six skaters recorded multi-point performances.
Blake McLaughlin opened the night with a goal and ended the championship battle with an empty net tally for a game-high four points (two goals, two assists). McLaughlin gave Minnesota its first in-game lead of the tournament when he forced home an attempt at 10:32 of the first period shortly after a Wisconsin penalty had expired.
The Gophers (23-6-0) then outscored the Badgers 4-1 in the second period including a run of three-straight goals to close out the period in a span of less than three minutes. Wisconsin (20-9-1) closed the gap with three goals in the third, but the Gophers held until McLaughlin added the empty net dagger in the final minute as Minnesota won its third game in three days to win the 2021 Big Ten Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament. Brannon McManus, Jaxon Nelson, Mike Koster and Scott Reedy all added goals for the Maroon & Gold.
Newly minted Big Ten Goaltender of the Year Jack LaFontaine made a season-high 46 saves to earn the win. The Hobey Baker Award candidate and Mike Richter Award finalist earned his NCAA-best 21st win of the season (21-6-0 and improved to 5-0-0 this year at Compton Family Ice Arena.
2021 Big Ten Men’s Ice Hockey All-Tournament Team
Sampo Ranta, F, Minnesota
Sammy Walker, F, Minnesota
Cole Caufield, F, Wisconsin
Mike Koster, D, Minnesota
Ty Emberson, D, Wisconsin
Jack LaFontaine, G, Minnesota (also named tournament’s Most Outstanding Player)
With the win over Wisconsin, the Gophers improved to 10-7 all-time in the Big Ten tournament and have now played every team in the conference in Big Ten postseason play…the Maroon & Gold were making their third Big Ten tournament championship appearance and first since 2016 (Minnesota won its first Big Ten Tournament title in 2015)…the Gophers will head into the national tournament with an NCAA-best 23 wins this season in 29 games.
Bob Motzko Quotable:
Up Next: NCAA Selection Show on Sunday
The Big Ten’s automatic qualifier and a possible No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament, Minnesota will now wait to see where it will head for the 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Championship. The selection show airs on ESPNU on Sunday, March 21 at 6:00 p.m.
(info and photo courtesy of Gopher Sports)