ANCHORAGE, Alaska — With a 4-0 win at Alaska-Anchorage Saturday, No. 1 Minnesota captured the WCHA regular-season title, winning the MacNaughton Cup for the first time since sharing it with North Dakota in 1996-97.
The Golden Gophers (23-6-5, 18-5-3 WCHA) used an outstanding defensive effort and a hat trick by junior center Ryan Potulny to earn their first outright WCHA crown since the 1991-92 season.
Minnesota held the last-place Seawolves (6-25-3, 4-21-3) to 10 shots on the night, including none in the second period. Freshman goaltender Jeff Frazee stopped all 10 shots he faced to record his first career shutout at Minnesota.
The Golden Gophers clinched the outright title with the win and Wisconsin’s 7-3 loss at Minnesota State.
Minnesota scored all four of its goals in the second period with Potulny netting two even-strength tallies and a power-play marker, and freshman phenom Phil Kessel scoring a goal with the man advantage.
With his third career hat trick (and second of the season), Potulny now leads the WCHA and the nation in goals with 29. With season totals of 29-21–50, he is also tied for first in the conference in points with Denver’s Matt Carle (11-39–50). The 50 points rank fourth in the nation.
The Golden Gophers are now on the nation’s longest unbeaten streak at 10 games (9-0 -1) and are 16-1-1 (12-1-1 WCHA) in their last 18. Minnesota has not lost since a 4-2 defeat to UND on Jan. 14, and is also on a 12-game unbeaten streak in road games.
Saturday, Minnesota used multi-point nights from Potulny (3-0–3), Chris Harrington (0 -2–2), Alex Goligoski (0-2–2), and Ryan Stoa (0-2–2).
After a scoreless first period that saw the Gophers outshoot the Seawolves 15-4, Minnesota exploded in the second period with four goals. Potulny got UM going at 4:12 with a 5-on-5 goal. Taking a feed from Ryan Stoa, Potulny beat UAA goaltender John DeCaro to give Minnesota the 1-0 lead. P.J. Atherton picked up the second assist for his first point since Dec. 29 vs. Union.
Ten minutes later, Potulny made it 2-0 with another even-strength lamplighter. This time, Potulny took a Goligoski pass to notch his team-leading eighth multi-goal game of the season. Stoa earned the second assist on the play.
At 16:27, Kessel scored his 14th goal of the season, stuffing home a rebound off a Danny Irmen shot to push the lead to three. Harrington was credited with the second assist on the power-play goal.
Potulny wrapped up the night’s scoring at 18:47 with his third goal of the game. Skating on a power play, Goligoski fed Harrington who went cross-zone to find Potulny on the right circle for the junior’s second straight multi-goal game. For the second period, the Golden Gophers outshot the Seawolves, 11-0.
Minnesota and Alaska Anchorage each tallied six shots on the third period, but UAA never really threatened Frazee and the UM defense. The Golden Gophers preserved the shutout and the 4-0 win to gain their eighth sweep of the season.
For the game, Minnesota outshot UAA, 32-10. UM went 2-for-5 on the power play and held the Seawolves scoreless in four man-advantage situations. Frazee picked up the win with 10 saves to improve to 5-2-2 on the season, while DeCaro got the loss with 28 saves to fall to 2-12-0.