Gopher hockey tops Michigan in overtime in front of 1,800 fans

Minnesota is one win from reaching the conference semifinals.

The Gopher men's hockey team picked up a huge win over Michigan in the opening game of a best-of-three Big Ten Tournament series on Friday night, but one of the smallest crowds in recent memory was there to see it. 

The 3-2 overtime victory has been marred by photos being shared on social media that show a sparse crowd, and the announced attendance at 3M Arena at Mariucci was just 1,835 fans. 

Why such a small crowd?

It's hard to say for sure, but the the boys' state hockey tournament filled the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul with fans and St. Cloud State sold out its home game against Minnesota-Duluth. 

Friday was also the last day of classes at the University of Minnesota before spring break. Students are off until classes resume Mar. 18. 

According to USCHO statistics, the Gophers are third in the country in total and average attendance among Division I men's hockey programs this year. Minnesota averages 8,231 fans per home game, which equates to an 82.3 percent fill rate in the 10,000-seat arena. 

Regardless of the crowd, the win is huge for the Gophers who can advance to the Big Ten tourney semifinals with a win Saturday over Michigan. If they lose Saturday the series will be decided in Game 3 on Sunday. 

Minnesota can punch an automatic ticket to the NCAA Tournament if they win the Big Ten tourney, but simply reaching the semifinals might be enough to get them an at-large bid. 

Saturday's game starts at 4 p.m. Get your tickets here

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