Gophers clinch home-ice with 2-0 win at Michigan Tech

A night after being sat down allowing three goals on eight shots and a week after seeing his streak of 51-straight starts come to an end, Alex Kangas came up big when the Minnesota menâÄôs hockey team needed him the most. With the Gophers clinging to fifth place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and home-ice on the line in the final games of the regular season, Minnesota needed a win Saturday night to seal the deal. And a shutout by Kangas âÄî only the second of his career âÄî in a 2-0 win over Michigan Tech came just in time. The netminder from Rochester stopped 21 shots on goal by the Huskies âÄî the same team he blanked in a 3-0 win Nov. 16 to pick up his first shutout with Minnesota (15-12-7 overall, 12-11-5 WCHA). âÄúThe key was Alex Kangas,âÄù Lucia said to the Star Tribune. âÄúWe needed him to have a good game going into the playoffs. Hopefully, that’s going to get him back to the form of being an elite goalie.âÄù Junior forward Ryan Stoa hooked up with freshman Jordan Schroeder for his 21st goal of the year âÄî the most in the conference âÄî while junior forward Tony Lucia made it 2-0 when he tallied his third point of the weekend. âÄúIt always feels good when you can chip in offensively,âÄù Tony Lucia said after SaturdayâÄôs game. âÄúI think when you get a couple goals, you get more confident.âÄù Tony Lucia recorded a goal and an assist in the GophersâÄô 6-5 overtime loss Friday night, which was a game of several significant feats. It was the first time Don Lucia has lost in Houghton, Mich., since taking over the Minnesota job. Despite coming back from a three-goal deficit in the second period, a penalty for too many men on the ice in overtime allowed the Huskies (6-23-7, 2-19-7) to pick up only their second WCHA win this season. It was also Michigan TechâÄôs highest offensive production of the season. Minnesota, which weathered a three-way tie for fifth place with Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State, survived Friday nightâÄôs scare when both the Bulldogs and St. Cloud State lost their respective games. The Gophers held the tie-breaker advantages over both teams, but didnâÄôt need them as St. Cloud State skated to a 4-4 overtime tie with Minnesota State on Saturday while Minnesota-Duluth lost 4-3 to Alaska Anchorage. The Gophers will open up the WCHA playoffs by hosting St. Cloud State next weekend at Mariucci Arena. Playoff outline North Dakota clinched its first MacNaughton Cup under coach Dave Hakstol with SaturdayâÄôs 2-1 win over Wisconsin. âÄúItâÄôs a good accomplishment for the guys in that locker room,âÄù Hakstol said in a team release. âÄúIâÄôm proud of them. I want them to take a couple of hours and enjoy it. But in the morning we have to stay on track and come back to work.âÄù The next night, the Badgers sent the Sioux, who will host 10th-seed Michigan Tech in the first round, into the playoffs on a low note with a 4-1 loss. Here are the remaining three playoff series: Second-place Denver will host Alaska Anchorage, third-seed Wisconsin will faceoff with Minnesota State in Madison and the seventh-seeded Bulldogs will travel to Colorado Springs to face fourth-ranked Colorado College. The WCHA first round is a best-of-three series, the winners of which move on to the WCHA Final Five, March 19-21 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.