MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The WHCA-leading University of North Dakota clinched a home playoff berth this weekend, and the Minnesota Golden Gophers extended their winning streak to seven games.
With just three weeks to go in the 2000-01 regular season, the defending NCAA champion Fighting Sioux (20-5-7, 16-4-4 WCHA) are unbeaten in their last eight games.
The Sioux played to a a pair or overtime ties, 3-3 and 4-4, against visiting Wisconsin (15-11-4, 10-8-4) over the weekend.
The Sioux trailed Saturday 4-3 after two periods but rallied to tie the game on Ryan Bayda's third goal of the night 4:06 into the third period. It was Bayda's first collegiate hat trick, and each of his three goals tied the game.
The ties put the Sioux four points over the Gophers (22-7-2, 15-5-2), who extended their winning streak and took over sole possession of second place with a 4-1, 3-1 road sweep at Minnesota State-Mankato (17-12-1, 11-10-1).
The Gophers are playing well, but they are also getting some lucky breaks.
John Pohl said he never saw the puck coming Saturday as the Gophers forward stood in the right circle, he held his stick aloft, and an airborne pass banged off of it into Minnesota State, Mankato's goal.
"That was the big goal for us," Gophers coach Don Lucia said. "Goals were tough to come by. They took it to us in the first period, and our guys got a talking-to by coach Mike Guentzel."
Jon Waibel didn't claim much responsibility for his third-period goal, either.
Mavericks goalie Eric Pateman came out of the net to try to catch the puck, and when he missed it, Waibel swatted it into the open net.
"I didn't realize what happened," Waibel said. "It was a good night for us. To get a goal at that point in an important game made it a whole lot nicer."
Just like that, the Gophers turned two crazy bounces into two goals -- and got a 3-1 victory over the Mavericks at Midwest Wireless Civic Center.
The Gophers played one of their strongest defensive series this season in sweeping the Mavericks. The Mavericks went 0-for-7 on the power play Saturday and got their only goal on T.J. Guidarelli's slick move to the net at 13 minutes, 19 seconds of the first period.
The Gophers now have their longest winning streak since an 11-game run in 1995-96. They have swept their past two WCHA opponents.
While Pohl grinned over his good fortune, he knew it took much more than that to push the Gophers to the brink of a special season.
"I wasn't even trying to hit it," said Pohl, who scored the Gophers' first goal before netting his unusual game winner. "We won because of our perseverance, and that's what a good team does.
In Alaska, the St. Cloud State Huskies (22-7-1, 15-7-0) moved back into a third place tie with Colorado College (20-7-1, 15-7-0) in the WCHA with a two-game sweep of Anchorage.
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