MINNEAPOLIS -- Kyle Rau's reputation as a big-time player in big-time moments took another jump during the weekend as he clinched the inaugural Big Ten regular-season championship for No. 1 Minnesota with the overtime winner against Michigan.
Rau, who leads Minnesota and ranks third in the Big Ten with 33 points this season, knocked home a loose puck 2:44 into overtime on Friday night as Minnesota won 3-2 in the added session.
"Who else but Kyle Rau? That's what he does -- scores big goals," Gophers head coach Don Lucia said after the game.
For some, it would have been the goal of a lifetime. For Rau, a junior captain, it was business as usual.
Perhaps no player in recent memory has been as instrumental to a team's offensive success as Rau. The Gophers are 62-9-6 all-time when he tallies a point while 18 of the forward's 44 career goals have been game winners -- the most among active Gophers.
"Kyle's been a big-time player his whole life. He can simply will his team to win," Gophers assistant coach and former captain Grant Potulny said. "He's a great competitor, and he brings it every single night. I'd take him on my team any day."
While his reputation has been solidified in college, his legend began as prep athlete at Eden Prairie. Minnesota's Mr. Hockey Award winner and First-Team All-State honoree in 2011, Rau scored the game-winning goal for the Eagles in the 2011 Class AA state championship - a 3-2 triple overtime victory against Duluth East.
"Scoring that one meant a lot to me personally," Rau said. "My brother [twin brother, Curt] had the first shot on goal, and I just dove for it and got lucky. That was the last game we played together. It's a great memory for us."
Before that, he scored the game-winning goal in double overtime as Eden Prairie topped Wayzata to clinch the 2011 Section 6AA championship. Rau, who also led Eden Prairie to a state title in 2009 along with former Gopher and current Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy, totaled 220 points (110 goals, 110 assists) in his three years with the Eagles.
But Rau's personal favorite goal?
"Probably my goal against North Dakota as a freshman...that was a big one."
Just another example of stepping up big for his team. Rau scored the game winner with 45 seconds left in regulation in a 3-2 win against North Dakota at Mariucci Arena as Minnesota went on to win the first of three consecutive conference titles during Rau's three years with the program. The Gophers also returned to the Frozen Four at the end of the 2011-12 campaign.