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It's Big Ten Tournament title or bust for Don Lucia's Gophers

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The late-season surge by the University of Minnesota men's hockey team is on but they have more work to do to get to the NCAA Tournament.

The Gophers secured the top seed in the upcoming Big Ten tournament after beating Wisconsin 4-1 in the regular-season finale at Mariucci Arena on Saturday, but their loss to the Badgers the night before crushed their chances of receiving one of ten at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.

Now they have to win the Big Ten Tournament to get in, the Star Tribune notes.

The NCAA Tournament's field of 16 teams has historically been accurately decided by the top 16 in the Pairwise Rankings, and the Gophers are on the outside looking in at No. 17.

More from the USCHO:

"With the split, Minnesota is officially on the on the outside looking in when it comes to the PairWise Rankings meaning than it will need to win the Big Ten Tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament. That’s not a position that most conference champions are used to being in, but the Gophers do have a couple things working in their favor. They nabbed the top seed in the tournament, so they will play the winner of the Ohio State and Michigan State game. Minnesota is a combined 7-1 against those two teams this season."

The Gophers will open the 2016 Big Ten Tournament at Xcel Energy Center on Friday in semifinal action at 7:30 p.m., playing the winner of Thursday's quarterfinal between Ohio State and Michigan State.

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Minnesota has won five straight regular-season conference titles (three Big Ten, two WCHA).

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