MacNaughton Cup Champions
Minnesota celebrated Senior Night by claiming sole possession of its 13th MacNaughton Cup, clinching the WCHA regular-season title with a 20-8-0 record in conference play. The Gophers won the title for the first time since 2006-07. Prior to Saturday, Minnesota clinched the top spot in the league playoffs. The Gophers will host a best-of-three first-round playoff series against 12th-place Alaska-Anchorage beginning next Friday. UAA is the only team to beat the Gophers in postseason play at the current Mariucci Arena, having done it three times. The Seawolves eliminated Minnesota last season.
Senior Night Celebration
They will play at Mariucci Arena again next week, but seniors Taylor Matson, Jake Hansen, Nico Sacchetti, Nick Larson, Joe Miller, Kent Patterson, and Jake Kremer played their last regular-season home games as Gophers on Saturday. The Gophers won on Senior Night for the fourth consecutive year. Minnesota beat Michigan Tech 5-2 last season and drubbed Wisconsin 6-1 the year before that. The Gophers are now 13-1-1 all-time against Wisconsin when playing the Badgers in their final home game of the regular season.
Sophomore Erik Haula scored the Gophers' seventh shorthanded goal of the season on Saturday night to tie the game in the third period. It was the second shorthanded goal of Haula's career.
By winning on Saturday night, Minnesota improved to 14-3-1 on Saturdays in 2011-12, including a 13-1-0 mark in the WCHA (7-0-0 at home). The Gophers have not been swept at home all year after finishing last season by being swept by Alaska-Anchorage. The last time Minnesota was swept in its own building in the regular season was on Oct. 15-16, 2010 when Nebraska Omaha beat the Gophers 5-4 and 4-2.
After missing Friday's game, first-line center Nick Bjugstad returned to the lineup on Saturday. Bjugstad missed two games prior to this weekend to represent the United States at the World Junior Championships. He missed the same amount of time for World Juniors last season and sat out five more due to mononucleosis. The Gophers are 1-2-0 without him this year and 4-4-2 without his services over his two-year career.
Bjugstad did not get on the scoresheet, but recorded six shots and saw time on the power play and penalty kill.