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Florida Panthers Prospects: Mike Benning plays big part in national championship

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Florida Panthers Mike Benning
Florida Panthers prospect Mike Benning celebrates with his teammates after scoring the eventual tournament-winning goal / Photo courtesy ESPN

Florida Panthers prospect Mike Benning had a big night Saturday as he scored the game-winning goal as the University of Denver Pioneers beat Minnesota State 5-1 in the NCAA national championship game.

The championship is the ninth for Denver — and first since former Panthers’ top prospect Henrik Borgstrom led the Pioneers to the 2017 title.

Bennning was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player as he recorded four points in wins over Michigan in the semifinal and on Saturday.

On Saturday night, the Pioneers came into the third period down 1-0 to Minnesota State, but it was Benning who sparked the comeback effort.

Benning was not real happy the Mavericks had a lead in the first place; he was in the penalty box on a tripping call when they scored the first goal of the night.

“It really pissed me off,” Benning said. “I had to contribute.”

He certainly did.

MUST READ: Mike Benning talks with FHN about his fit with the Florida Panthers

Just under five minutes into the third, the 5-9 defenseman fired off a shot that Minnesota State goalie Dryden McKay stopped, but Ryan Barrow picked up the rebound and put it home to tie the game.

Three minutes later, Benning unloaded a booming slap shot off a one-timer that beat McKay to put Denver on top.

“I just kind of blacked out,” Benning said. ”I just saw my teammates coming towards me and I had to celebrate. It was a big one and I’m loss for words right now.”

The Pioneers scored another three goals to ice the title win, but it was Florida’s 2020 fourth-round pick who got them there.

Benning showcased his abilities on both ends of the ice as a key component of the championship winning team throughout the tournament, being a consistent puck mover, having a laser of a shot and making key defensive stops.

Benning could sign his entry-level contract with the Panthers and join Florida or AHL Charlotte for the playoffs but is expected to return to Denver for his junior season.

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

ANAHEIM DUCKS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM, SiriusXM
  • Last season: Did not play
  • All-time regular season series: Florida leads 19-14-2, 3 ties
  • Season Series — Florida leads 1-0: Florida 3, @Anaheim 0 (March 19)
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