As sad as it is to see a 52 year run in the WCHA,end, going out with a win helps. Getting a sweep and a share of a regular season title is icing on the cake.
In their final WCHA regular season game, the University of Minnesota defeated Bemidji State 5-1 to sweep the Beavers at the Sanford Center and win their third straight game. Five different players scored for Minnesota (24-7-5, 18-7-5 WCHA), who will be moving to the Big Ten next year
Adam WIlcox (Tampa Bay Lightning draftee) made 23 saves in his 23rd win of the season.
Coupled with Wisconsin winning 3-2 over St. Cloud State, the Gophers' second WCHA sweep of the year means that the Huskies and Minnesota finish on top of the conference with 37 points. Both teams will share the MacNaughton Cup for winning the regular season title. It's the first time St. Cloud State has won the title and the 14th for Minnesota.
The Gophers got off to a strong start for the second straight night by scoring in the first 5 minutes. Kyle Rau (Florida Panthers) got his own rebound after his shot hit the pipe and found Erik Haula (Minnesota Wild) in front of the slot 4:04 into the game. It was the 16th goal of the season for the junior, who also had 2 assists for his 11th career 3 point night.
Just over 11 minutes later, Christian Isackson (Buffalo Sabres) set up Nick Bjugstad (Panthers) on an odd-man rush for Bjugstad's 20th goal of the season and third of the weekend.
Bemidji State (6-20-8, 5-16-7 WCHA) showed tenacity in last night's 4-3 loss by coming back multiple times and did so again Saturday. Although they trailed 2-0 after the end of the first period, Matt Prapavessis scored his second goal of the weekend (and third of the season) just 1:55 into the second. The goal gave the Beavers life as they made it tough for Minnesota to set up, however, BSU was unable to take advantage of the game's only power play and it led to their downfall Saturday.
The Gophers swarmed Bemidji State senior goaltender Matthew Dugas once they were at full strength. While an entire shift spent in front of Dugas where he made 4 of his 35 saves, it only delayed the swarm in front of him. Zach Budish (Nashville Predators) on the next shift got the puck past him on his third effort with 5:34 remaining in the second period.
Jake Parenteau, who sat out Friday night and was in for Mike Reilly (Columbus Blue Jackets), added his third goal of the season to put the game away with 5:57 left in regulation. Then Isackson scored literally at the buzzer for the final 5-1 score.
Surprisingly, Minnesota celebrated with the McNaughton Cup following the game. The Gophers, who won the WCHA regular season title last year, still had possession of the Cup and got their celebrating out of the way before the playoffs start.
They now face Bemidji State once again next weekend in the first round at Mariucci Arena.
Follow Nate on Twitter @gopherstate.