Gophers Take on Colorado College in WCHA Final Five Semifinal
March 20, 2013
The Co-MacNaughton Cup champion Minnesota men's hockey team continues its final Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs this weekend at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul for the 2013 WCHA Final Five. The Gophers (26-7-5 overall) return to action on Friday at 7 p.m. in semifinal action against the winner of Thursday's Colorado College/North Dakota quarterfinal game. Wisconsin and Minnesota State are also in action on Thursday with the winner advancing to take on St. Cloud State on Friday. Saturday's WCHA Final Five championship game is also set for 7 p.m. FOX Sports North will broadcast the entire tournament while 1500 ESPN will carry each Gophers game on the radio.
Last Time Out
Minnesota opened the WCHA playoffs with a two-game sweep over Bemidji State at Mariucci Arena. The Gophers opened the weekend with a 2-1 overtime win on Friday before rallying from a two-goal deficit for Saturday's 4-3 win over the Beavers. Kyle Rau and Erik Haula led the way with three points each while Adam Wilcox picked up both wins for the Gophers.
Minnesota at the Final Five
Minnesota makes its 18th appearance in the WCHA Final Five this weekend with the Gophers holding a 20-16 overall record at the conference competition. Minnesota is 9-7 in semifinal action at the Final Five but 2-4 against Colorado College and 3-4 against North Dakota at the tournament. Minnesota's 14 WCHA playoff titles are the second most in WCHA history -- one behind Denver's 15.
Roll with Rau
Sophomore Kyle Rau has repeatedly stepped up when the Gophers needed him this season, and the forward again did so on Friday night. After Bemidji State tied the game with less than a minute left in regulation, Rau tallied his seventh game-winning goal -- the most in the nation this year -- in overtime to give Minnesota a series lead. On top of that, the Gophers are now 23-1-1 this season when Rau earns a point.
The Lucia Coaching Tree
Minnesota's last Final Five appearance will be a special one for Gophers head coach Don Lucia as three of his former assistants -- now head coaches -- will be competing at the conference championship. The following WCHA head coaches have served under Lucia: St. Cloud State's Bob Motzko (Minnesota), Minnesota State's Mike Hastings (Minnesota) and Colorado College's Scott Owens (Colorado College).
Haula Makes His Mark
Junior Erik Haula had three assists in Minnesot'as 4-3 win over Bemidji State last weekend, moving the forward to 122 career points (42 goals, 80 assists) in 112 games with Minnesota. Saturday's performance ended with Haula totaling 49 points (16 goals, 33 assists) this season -- tying his career-high from last year (20-29--49) when he led the Gophers in scoring.
Marshall Continues to Stay Hot
Sophomore defenseman Ben Marshall now has four points and three goals in his last four games including goals in both games last weekend. The sophomore has 32 career points (12 goals, 20 assists) in 79 games with Minnesota -- none bigger than his game winner with 53 seconds left on Saturday to give the Gophersa 4-3 win and advance the team on to the WCHA Final Five this weekend.
Wilcox Ties Rookie Record
Rookie netminder Adam Wilcox has started the last 35-straight games for Minnesota and picked up his 25th win of the season on Saturday to tie Kellen Briggs for the Minnesota rookie wins record. Wilcox (25-6-5), who ranks seventh in the nation with a goals against average of 1.84 and also has a .923 save percentage, is also on pace to compete for Minnesota single-season records for GAA and save percentage. Alex Kangas has both records for the Gophers at 1.98 GAA and a .930 save percentage -- both set in his freshman season with the Gophers (2007-08).Wilcox also ranks second in the nation and first in the WCHA this year in wins (25; one off the national lead).
Keeping the Cup
Minnesota earned a share of its second-straight MacNaughton Cup and its fourth WCHA regular-season championship in the last eight years. The Gophers rallied from a four-point deficit on March 2 to tie St. Cloud State atop the league standings for Minnesota's 14th conference regular-season championship. Also of note, the Gophers went the entire 2012-13 regular season without leading the WCHA until tying for the MacNaughton Cup on Saturday night in the regular-season finale.
Lucia and the MacNaughton Cup
This year's MacNaughton Cup marks Minnesota head coach Don Lucia's seventh career WCHA regular-season championship -- a conference record. Lucia has won four MacNaughton Cups with the Gophers, twice going back-to-back in 2005-06 and 2006-07 and again in 2011-12 and 2012-13. Lucia's also won three-straight regular-season league titles in his first three seasons with Colorado College (1993-94, 94-95, 95-96).