SOUTH BEND, Ind. — It may be a 200-foot game, but No. 1 Minnesota won another Ice Breaker Tournament championship on Sunday in the few feet around both nets.
The Gophers scored a pair of goals on deflections in front of the net and were strong in front of goaltender Adam Wilcox for a 3-0 victory on Sunday at Compton Family Ice Arena.
Seth Ambroz and Hudson Fasching both used their big frames to establish a presence around the Engineers’ crease, and their redirection scores set the tone for the Gophers, who repeated as tournament champions.
“We had to get some traffic in front to get some deception going,” said Fasching, who was named the tournament MVP. “Obviously, we had some success with that.”
Wilcox made 22 saves for his eighth collegiate shutout, lowering his career GAA to 1.91 in 79 games.
But he didn’t have much interference to deal with as he shut down the Engineers, who had trouble sustaining attack-zone time. Minnesota pushed first chances to the outside and didn’t give away many second opportunities.
Only five of RPI’s 22 shots came from close range in front of the net.
“We did a good job of boxing out,” Wilcox said. “When I think about the plays that happened, when I was able to get the puck and cover it, there wasn’t anyone in my face.”
The Gophers’ advantage in attack-zone time showed in the attempted-shots totals: Minnesota fired 69 to Rensselaer’s 40.
“If it was a wrestling match, the riding time would have been pretty ugly,” Engineers coach Seth Appert said. “I think early we were a little tentative. We talked about not giving them too much respect in terms of their speed and skill, but they can spread you out really well because their [defensemen] are so talented.”
With Columbus president John Davidson in the building, a pair of Blue Jackets draft picks combined to put the Gophers ahead for good.
Ambroz tipped a Mike Reilly shot from the right point past Rensselaer goaltender Jason Kasdorf in the first period.
Fasching added to his goal in Friday’s 4-3 win over Minnesota-Duluth by redirecting a Ryan Collins shot early in the second period.
After watching Kasdorf star in the Engineers’ 3-2 win over host Notre Dame in Friday’s semifinals, Gophers coach Don Lucia said he knew the key to beating the goaltender was traffic in front of the net.
“At this level, you have to have to have net traffic if you’re going to score goals,” he said. “You’re not going to beat a goalie, especially a good goalie, from 30 feet out very often any more.”
Connor Reilly scored on a one-timer set up by brother Mike on the power play in the third period to give the Gophers some breathing room.
But with Wilcox and the Minnesota defense playing well, one goal may have been enough all along.
The Gophers also won the Ice Breaker in 2007 in St. Paul, Minn., and last season at home.
“It’s a new year, and to be able to start on the same foot as we did last year is really exciting,” Fasching said.
On a weekend when the preseason rankings didn’t mean much in the results across the country, the Gophers put on display some of the depth that gave the voters reason to expect a lot out of them this season.
“They showed why they’re the No. 1 team in the country,” Appert said.