DETROIT — Minnesota claimed its first Big Ten playoff title and earned an automatic bid for the upcoming NCAA tournament with a 4-2 victory against Michigan on Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena.
The win gives Minnesota its first conference playoff title since 2007 (WCHA) and its 15th overall conference playoff title. The Gophers have now swept the Big Ten regular-season championship (second-consecutive in the Big Ten and fourth in-a-row overall) and the Big Ten tournament title — the first time the Maroon & Gold have swept the conference titles since 2007.
Travis Boyd scored twice while Kyle Rau (one goal, one assist) and Leon Bristedt (two assists) each tallied multi-point games while Adam Wilcox made 24 saves to pick up the win and now sits with 73 career wins — most among active NCAA goalies and tied for third all-time at Minnesota with Hobey Baker Award winner Robb Stauber.
For the second night in a row the Gophers skated through a scoreless first period, this time outshooting their opponent 20-7 in the opening stanza.
However, unlike Friday’s one-goal second period, the two teams combined for four goals in the second session with both squads swapping the lead before heading into the third at a 2-2 tie.
Minnesota (23-12-3 overall, 12-5-3-0 Big Ten) jumped out to the first lead of the night when Boyd scored on the power play at 2:30 of the second period after being set up by Rau and Vinni Lettieri. Michigan responded with a pair of power-play goals from Zach Hyman and Alex Kile at 3:56 and 6:14, respectively.
But the Gophers would put together a response of their own on a nifty setup at 10:34 when Hudson Fasching found a streaking Rau for the senior captain’s 20th goal of the season — a career high for the forward. Bristedt also assisted on the goal.
In a game that saw four power-play goals, the game winner came down to an advantage for Minnesota when Justin Kloos deposited the game winner at 9:29 of the third period off a setup from Bristedt and Michael Brodzinski. Minnesota finished the night 2-for-5 on the power play while Michigan went 2-for-4.
Boyd tallied his second empty-net goal of the weekend to seal the win at 19:38 of the final stanza.
The win for Minnesota locks up the program’s 36th NCAA tournament appearance.