No. 1 Gophers Fall to Michigan in Big10 Hockey Championship


(via @GopherHockey on Twitter)

Charlie Rapheal, Editor

The University of Minnesota hockey team lost the Big10 championship this Saturday, March 18 to No. 2 Michigan. The Gophers, who are still ranked strongly in the 1 seed of the conference, defeated Michigan State 5-1 in their previous game of the tournament, after getting a bye for the first round. 

The final score of the championship game was Michigan-4 to Minnesota-3. The Gophers started out strongly with Brody Lamb scoring just under 7 minutes into the first period. Still 1-0 after the first, the game became tilted towards Michigan. They put up two goals in the second period, matched by Gophers with just one. Tied at 2-2 going into the third period, Michigan scored twice, and the Gophers followed with just one again. 

The loss comes as a heavy disappointment for Gopher fans, who boasted the No.1 seed throughout most of the season. However, Minnesota still carries this ranking with a conference record of 19-4-1. The second seed of the conference, where Michigan sits, holds a record of 12-10-2. This sets the Gophers pretty notably above the rest of the conference, and Gopher fans were hoping that the Championship game would reflect that. 

“We missed a couple (defensive) assignments. Our whole game plan was to limit our mistakes — and unfortunately we didn’t do it” said Gopher head coach Bob Motzko, citing defensive mistakes in the defensive zone as an area for improvement.  “Michigan was good in the third period after we got up. It was a heavy-hitting tilt and you can’t make those kinds of mistakes.” he added. 

Saturday’s game was also shockingly similar to the result of last year’s Championship game, in which the same two teams played, and the resulting score was the same. Gopher hockey fans have now been beaten in back to back championships, by the same team, fitted the same seeds, by the same score. 

Despite the loss on Saturday, the Gophers will continue to play in the 2023 NCAA tournament in Tampa, Florida. The tournament features sixteen teams from four different regions across the country, and bracket play works down to the Frozen Four. The Gophers are also seeded No. 1 for the NCAA, and will play Canisius from Buffalo, New York in their first game this Thursday.

(via @GopherHockey on Twitter)

The winner of the Minnesota vs Canisius game will face off against the winner of a St. Cloud vs Mankato game in the second round of the NCAA tournament, about which coach Motzko said “Obviously, we’re familiar with both St. Cloud and Mankato. We played both this year, but we’ve got a game in front of that to play.” When asked a similar question, Gophers defenseman Mike Koster responded “We have one goal right now, and that’s to win the game on Thursday.”

The tournament will also feature No. 2 Quinnipiac, No. 3 Denver, and No. 4 Michigan. The way the bracket is set up, if the Gophers and Michigan both win their first 3 games, they will get a Big10 Championship rematch to decide who will win it all. 

Head coach Motzko was also asked about his feelings going into the tournament. He described how beneficial the championship game will be in replicating the intensity of a tournament game. “This is going to help us,” Motzko said. “Not the loss, playing in a tense game. Going into next week…we’ve played two games in 23 days, you can’t necessarily duplicate that in practice.”

When asked about the loss, junior Gopher captain Brock Faber responded “It stings, but at the end of the day we’re looking for a bigger trophy.” He went on to say “That’s not going to happen if we don’t learn from this lesson quickly.”