Gophers Punch Ticket to the B1G Championship Game

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MINNEAPOLIS — For the second year in a row Samy Walker scored the game-winning goal to send the Gopher men’s hockey program to the Big Ten tournament championship as No. 2 Minnesota clinched a 3-2 win over Penn State Saturday night at the 3M Arena in Mariucci.

Minnesota (24-11-0) has now won nine straight games and will host Michigan for the conference playoff crown next Saturday. The Gophers have made the Big Ten title game four times in eight conference tournaments (the 2020 playoffs were canceled before the semifinals) and will play Michigan in the Big Ten Finals for the third time, with the Gophers winning in 2015 and Michigan in 2016. Minnesota is on chasing his third Big Ten playoff title and second straight (2015, 2021).

On Saturday, the Big Ten regular season champions were led by the Big Ten Player of the Year finalist and Hobey Baker Award nominee Ben Meyerswho opened the evening with his team-leading 16th goal of the year in the first third and then set up Jackson LaCombes Power play goal early in the second half for his career-best 36th point of the season. Meyers has now had 10 points (five goals, five assists) in four games since returning from the Olympics and has multiple points in all four competitions. Ryan Johnson and Rock Faber earned assists on Meyers’ tally during Aaron Huglen received an assist on LaCombe’s strike.

Penn State (17-20-1) scored twice later in the second half when Tyler Paquette put the visitors on goal and Dylan Lugris equalized on the power play. The power-play strike ended Minnesota’s flawless nine-game penalty streak and is only the second power-play goal the Gophers have conceded in the last 14 games.

Minnesota’s hopes of repeating the Big Ten playoff championship fell on the slug of Walker, who pocketed the game-winner at 17-21 of the third period on assists Blake McLaughlin and Bryce Brodzinski. Walker scored the overtime winner against Michigan last year to send the Gophers to the championship game.

Just close made 28 saves to improve to 12-3-0 year-on-year while Liam Souliere made 22 saves for the Nittany Lions. Close carried his shutout streak into the second period on Saturday, with the flawless performance coming in with a finishing time of 179:59.

Remarkable
Minnesota has now won four straight games against Penn State, though tonight’s win is the first for the Maroon & Gold against the Nittany Lions in the Big Ten tournament (1-3) — the win also gives the Gophers a win over each Big Ten team in conference tournament play…Minnesota’s 24 wins this season are most tied by the program below Bob Motzko (2021-22)… Saturday’s attendance of 6,856 at the 3M Arena in Mariucci set a new attendance record for current-format (since 2018) Big Ten tournaments.

Coach’s comments
“Penn State played with a lot of confidence…we survived and we found a way,” said the Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko called. “We didn’t have many chances – we needed one and we got it. We survived and next week will be better.”

Next up: B1G Tournament Championship
The 3M Arena in Mariucci will host the Big Ten Championship Game for the first time on Saturday, March 19 at 7:00 p.m. CT (TV: Big Ten Network; Stream: FOX Sports App; Radio: 1130 KTLK-AM), since Align the Gophers Michigan /103.5 VHF). Tickets are available now from GopherSports.com.

 

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