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March 19, 2023

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Different Coach, Different Stars, But Michigan Wins Another Big Ten Championship at Minnesota

by Heather Rule/Special to CHN

MINNEAPOLIS — Michigan freshman Rutger McGroarty took control in the second period. Well, certainly for 34-seconds worth, long enough to grab a 2-1 lead and get his team back in the game in a hurry.

Early in the second period, McGroarty cut through the slot for a quick shot off a rebound to tie the game. Next, he was in the perfect spot on the back door for his second goal in 34 seconds. He celebrated each tally emphatically in front of the Gophers student section.

“Getting to the net, finding those soft areas… good things happen when you’re around there,” McGroarty said.

Good things happened for Michigan, too. By the end of the night, McGroarty and his teammates celebrated by tossing their gear and hugging everyone on the team in celebration of Michigan’s second consecutive Big Ten Tournament championship with identical-in-score 4-3 victories at Minnesota.

No. 4 Michigan (24-11-3) later scored a pair of third-period goals to seal the victory and upset the No. 1 Gophers (26-9-1) on their home ice Saturday at 3M Arena at Mariucci.

“It’s pretty cool to see where we’ve come from at the beginning of the year,” McGroarty said. “Who would’ve thought?”

Where they came from was the tumult of their head coach, Mel Pearson, getting fired. Not just getting fired, but it happened in August. After a Frozen Four appearance last year, the loss of lots of high-end talent but with just as much coming in, the Wolverines scrambled to get a new coach, naming 37-year old alum Brandon Naurato as the interim successor.

It was a trial by fire for both Naurato and his young Wolverines, but seven months later, they’re right back where they were last year.

“We learn a lot as we go,” said Adam Fantilli, that nation’s leading point scorer. “We’re really grateful for the opportunities we’re given and how much ice time we’re given to be able to prove what we can do.”

The freshman forward McGroarty quickly added that while the Big Ten championship is “awesome,” they still have another tournament to win, with the NCAA Tournament on the horizon.

But he’s playing well at the right time. McGroarty has a four-game goal streak going in the month of March and five-game point streak with five goals and…

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