Gophers repeat as conference champs

Mark Remme

It was a struggle to seal the deal, but in the end, Minnesota’s men’s hockey team huddled in celebration Friday as the team won its second straight Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular season championship.

Three second-period goals, two of which were just seconds apart, propelled the Gophers to a 3-1 victory over surging Michigan Tech on Friday night at Mariucci Arena.

Senior captain Mike Vannelli accepted the MacNaughton Cup for the fourth-ranked Gophers after difficult bout with the Huskies.

“It’s a tough trophy to win,” Vannelli said. “It’s nice we don’t have to talk about it anymore and we can move forward from here.”

Winning the cup twice in a row is a difficult feat in the competitive conference, and coach Don Lucia said it’s an accomplishment his young squad can look back on down the road.

“When they come back 10 years from now they’ll see a banner up there that they’ve hung,” Lucia said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Trailing 1-0 midway through the second period, Minnesota freshman center Jim O’Brien found the back of the net at 9:25 on a crisp pass from junior defenseman Alex Goligoski.

It would be the start of a scoring spree highlighted by two goals separated by just 13 seconds – junior forward Evan Kaufmann tipped in defenseman Derek Peltier’s shot from the point just before freshman forward Tony Lucia scored on another tip-in at 2:33 of the second.

The outburst put a damper on Huskies goalie Michael-Lee Teslak’s impressive play as of late. The sophomore came into the contest 5-0-2 in his past seven starts.

He was tested early and often and the Gophers (26-7-3 overall, 18-6-3 WCHA) needed sound passes on the tape and traffic in front of the net to find twine against Teslak.

“I thought we were fortunate to come out of the first period 0-0,” Huskies coach Jamie Russell said. “(Teslak) played a great game.”

But his play wasn’t enough to propel the Huskies (15-15-5, 10-12-5) to victory, possibly eliminating their hopes of home ice in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.

Gophers senior netminder Kellen Briggs had a much different night in net. He faced just 17 shots – only eight through two periods – en route to the win.

It was his 81st career victory, just two shy of Adam Hauser’s team record. If Minnesota continues its goalie rotation, Briggs has the opportunity to pass Hauser at the WCHA Final Five or the first round of the NCAA tournament.

GAME SUMMARY

1st 2nd 3rd — T

Huskies 0 1 0 — 1

Gophers 0 3 0 — 3

SCORING

1st: NO SCORING

2nd: UMN: O’Brien-6 (Goligoski-25, Flynn-7), Kaufmann-8 (Peltier-8, Okposo-19), Lucia-7 (Carman-8, Howe-7); MTU: Gwilliam-9 (Rouleau-25)

3rd: NO SCORING

Goaltending:

Briggs (W ñ 14-5-2) 16 saves

Teslak (L ñ 8-6-3) 28 saves

Officials: Marco Hunt (referee), Dan Carey (linesman), Ed Moberg (linesman)

A: 10,009