Created: 03/14/2014 9:45 PM KSTP.com
Kyle Rau lived up to his lofty reputation with the overtime winner as the No. 1 Minnesota men’s hockey team clinched the inaugural Big Ten title in a 3-2 overtime win over No. 13 Michigan.
Minnesota (25-4-6 overall, 14-2-3-0 Big Ten) has now won a program-record three-straight conference championships while this year’s seniors are the first class to win three conference titles in their careers. Minnesota won back-to-back MacNaughton Cups as Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season champions in 2012 and 2013.
In one of the most grueling battles Minnesota has seen this year, the game winner came off the stick of one of the program’s most successful skaters. Rau, a junior captain, lit the lamp 2:44 into the overtime session during a Gophers’ power play to seal the title for Minnesota with Hudson Fasching and Travis Boyd tallying assists on the goal. The game-winning goal moves Minnesota to 62-9-6 all-time when Rau scores a point.
After weathering a tough 10 minutes to open the game, the Gophers jumped out to an early lead with Brady Skjei’s fourth of the year at 9:20 of the opening stanza. The sophomore defenseman gloved a clear attempt at the point and put his wrist shot past Zach Nagelvoort in net for the Wolverines.
Michigan (17-12-4, 9-8-2-1 Big Ten) would not go quietly, however. The Wolverines scored twice in the second half of the first to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. Evan Allen banked in a shot from deep in the corner at 12:36 and Andrew Copp gave the home squad a one-goal lead at 18:02 of the first period.
The Gophers bounced back in a tight battle during the second period though with Justin Kloos scoring on a rocket late in the period. The freshman tallied his 12th of the year at 17:52 after being set up by Mike Reilly and Nate Condon as the two Big Ten rivals went into the third period all squared at 2-2. Reilly’s assist gives the sophomore 29 points this season – most among Big Ten defensemen. Condon, meanwhile, tallied his 98th career point and has now skated in 152-consecutive games for the Maroon & Gold.
After a scoreless third went back and forth between the two storied programs, the Gophers leaned on Rau for a power-play goal that gave Minnesota its first overtime win of the year in seven tries.
While Rau, Skjei and Kloos provided the offense, Adam Wilcox backstopped the Gophers with another stellar performance in net. The sophomore Hobey Baker Award and Mike Richter Award candidate made 22 saves on the night and helped the Gophers outlast an early storm by the Wolverines. The netminder moved to 23-4-6 on the season with the victory on Friday while Nagelvoort made 25 saves for Michigan to move to 10-8-3.
The Gophers outshot Michigan 28-24 on the night. Minnesota went 1-for-3 on the power play and was 1-for-1 on the penalty kill.