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NCAA Weekend Hockey -- Michigan Wins B1G, Portillo Named MOP

Two Sabres prospects earned conference championships this weekend. Four didn't. Now it's NCAA Tournament time, and all six have an opportunity to win a national championship (see below, after game wraps).

Michigan 4, Minnesota 3

Though the final score was much closer than the overall game, the Big Ten title decider was the weekend's feature contest, and for good reason. Nearly 11,000 fans jammed into Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis to see teams with a combined 27 NHL-drafted players.

But for first 32 seconds, and the final 58, the Wolverines dominated. Michigan shook off Minnesota's early goal and wasn't threatened. The Golden Gophers scored twice in the last minute on empty-net power-play advantages of 6-on-3, and 6-on-4.

Once the game ended, Big Ten Network cameras focused almost exclusively on Erik Portillo. The sophomore stopped 25 Gopher shots, and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. Portillo made 90 saves in four tournament games, allowing only five goals.

Owen Power was front-and-center in just about everything Michigan did. The sophomore didn't register a point, but logged huge minutes, and was the key blueline figure on the Wolverines PP and PK units.

Minnesota's Ryan Johnson and Aaron Huglen went home disappointed.

Johnson, as usual, played mega minutes and led the Gophers with four shots on net (all stopped by his future teammate, Portillo). Huglen didn't register a point, was 3-for-8 on faceoffs, and disappointingly, picked up a third-period penalty (by pushing a Michigan skater onto the top of his prone future teammate, Portillo).

Big Ten Championship --

UConn 4, Northeastern 1

Devon Levi spent nearly all season bailing out his offensively challenged team, but couldn't do it again in this Friday night Hockey East semifinal in Boston. UConn comprehensively outplayed and outshot (37-25) Northeastern.

Levi stopped 33 of the 36 shots he faced. UConn's fourth goal went into an empty net.

Northeastern seemingly earned its NCAA Tournament berth (see below) by riding Levi's immense talent. The Huskies average only 2.6 goals per contest. Levi's GAA is 1.52.

Hockey East Semifinal --

Western Michigan 4, North Dakota 2

Matteo Costantini was kept off the scoresheet in this NCHC semifinal played Friday night in Saint Paul, Minn. Costantini was earlier named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team for his 21-point (8 goals, 13 assists) campaign.

NCHC Semifinal --

NCAA Tournament

The NCAA released its Division One hockey bracket Sunday night, and Michigan earned the No.1 overall seed.

The Wolverines (29-9-1) are in the Allentown, PA Regional. They will face American International on Friday at 3 p.m. The Yellow Jackets (22-13-1) won the Atlantic Hockey regular season and tournament titles.

Minnesota (24-12) and Northeastern (25-12-1) were placed in the Worcester, Mass. Regional.

The second seeded Gophers meet Hockey East champion UMass-Amherst (22-12-2) in Friday's second game (6 p.m.). The Huskies earned the No.4 seed. Northeastern matches with top seeded Western Michigan (25-11-1) in Friday's early contest (noon).

The battle for UND bragging rights will play out in Thursday's late game (6 p.m.) in the Albany, N.Y. Regional. That's when and where second seeded North Dakota (24-13-1) meets third seeded Notre Dame (27-11).

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