Congratulations to Don Lucia and the Golden Gophers for winning back-to-back MacNaughton Cups as regular season WCHA champions. The Gophers pulled off the feat by trouncing Bemidji State 5-1, and got some help from their arch-rivals (well, one of them) Wisconsin as Becky knocked off St Cloud 3-2 to give Minnesota and SCSU a tie atop the standings. St Cloud has the tie-breaker so they claim the #1 seed for the conference tournament, but both the Gophers and Huskies will be able to say that they won the last MacNaughton Cup that meant anything. Now and forever.
Minnesota got a statement win tonight when they needed it, controlling the game from the get-go as they out shot BSU 40-24, including 23 shots in the second period. Erik Haula and Nick Bjugstad scored in the first period, Beaver Matt Prapavessis scored his second goal of the weekend and the season to make get BSU on the board, but captain Zach Budish got one back before the end of the second to make it 3-1 after 2. Minnesota held that lead for most of the third before Jake Parenteau scored with about 5 minutes left and Christian Isackson just beat the buzzer scoring the fifth and final goal with just one second on the clock.
Bjugstad was the MVP of the weekend tallying three goals and an assist, and was one of five Gophers with at least two points in Saturday's win. Haula, the team's leading scorer on the season, led them in points on the night with three assists. Making the U's victory even more impressive is they not only scored five without a power play goal- they never had a power play opportunity.
Icing on the cake was Mankato defeating UND 2-1 in OT, dropping the Whioux to third place. The Gophers had the tie-breaker so it didn't matter what UND did, but always fun to see them lose. Minnesota getting that second seed in the WCHA playoffs instead of third is huge as the top 2 seeds, assuming they win their opening round series of course, get automatic byes to the semi-finals of the Final Five two Fridays from now. UND as the three seed will have to play a quarterfinal game to get to the semis- again, assuming they beat Michigan Tech in the opening round.
The Gophers can celebrate their 14th and final WCHA regular season title tonight and well into Sunday, and well they should. Starting Monday they'll get set to see the Beavers again as Minnesota will host Bemidji in a best of three first round series at Mariucci this coming Friday and Saturday (and if need be Sunday).