March 1, 2007
One Trophy Down, A Few More To Go

By Jess Myers

After 20 minutes of play this weekend, the St. Cloud State Huskies will be hoisting a trophy, guaranteed. It's the first of three they're aiming for. And there's one more piece of hardware they don't want to see.

WCHA Notebook

Bobby Goepfert remembers how tough things were when he arrived at St. Cloud State, and he'll leave after having helped the program to one of its best seasons in school history.

National TV Schedule

Via last weekend's impressive home-and-home sweep of Minnesota, the Huskies clinched the DQ Cup, which is given annually to the WCHA's top Minnesota-based team. The trophy will be handed to the Huskies during the first intermission of their Friday game with North Dakota, and if they hand the cup to Bobby Goepfert first, it will be perfectly fitting.

After a poorer-than-expected start to his senior season, spurred in part by trouble adjusting to new pads, Goepfert has been the team's, and perhaps the league's, most valuable player in the second half. Last Saturday in a 5-3 win at Minnesota, Goepfert had 39 saves despite a flood of traffic in front of the net that made clear glances at the puck a rarity.

"That's what that kid does. He's on a mission at the end of his college career," said Huskies coach Bob Motzko. "When the horn sounded I looked at him and pointed right at him. There was nobody more fired up in this building than him."

Goepfert practiced with the team two years ago, but could not play in Craig Dahl's final season as the Huskies coach, having to sit out a year after transferring from Providence. But he says the lessons he and teammates learned in that season, in which they finished ninth in the WCHA, have been valuable this year.

"Most of the guys in our locker room went through those hard times, finishing in the middle of the pack or the bottom of the pack a few years ago," Goepfert said. "You grow as a team when you go through those times. I didn't play, but I was around it, and a lot of the guys who went through that are our heart and soul. When we need to get something done, it's those guys who have been through the trenches stepping up and making plays."

The Huskies entered last weekend trailing Minnesota by seven points in the WCHA standings, and knowing that the Gophers needed just one win to clinch the MacNaughton Cup. After the sweep, Motzko admitted that his team wanted nothing to do with witnessing another team's championship celebration.

"We didn't want to see the MacNaughton Cup in our building, and after what happened (Friday) we said we don't want to see it at all," Motzko said, recalling his team's 5-1 win in the series opener.

WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod had flown to Minneapolis from Denver last weekend and was prepared to hand Minnesota the trophy if they'd won on Saturday. After Saturday's game, Motzko glanced across the hallway at McLeod and grinned before revealing another bit of motivation his team had last weekend.

"Let's make Commissioner McLeod fly back next week," Motzko said.

McLeod indeed planned on being in Minneapolis again this weekend, prepared once again to hand the MacNaughton Cup to the Gophers. The way things are going, that's the only trophy St. Cloud State's sights aren't set on in the last five weeks of the hockey season.


Away from the rink, a devastating loss: It was the real-life equivalent of a star player heading to the dressing room early in the second period this week when the WCHA family said goodbye to a great friend far, far too soon. After battling cancer for nearly two years, Kelley Campion-Brill passed away on Thursday morning at the young age of 37, surrounded by loved ones at a Twin Cities hospice unit.

Kelley had been around a hockey rink all her life. Her late father, Ted Brill, was a long-time youth hockey coach in Grand Rapids, Minn., and a USA Hockey board member. He also served as executive director of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame for several years. Brother Mike played hockey at Providence in the 1980s, and brother John skated for Minnesota a few years later.

Kelley and WCHA referee Jon Campion were married and had two sons, Teddy and Jack. Kelley was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2005, and amazed all who knew her with her upbeat attitude and determination in the face of long odds. In an on-line posting shortly after Kelley's passing, Jon summed up the admiration many of us held for her:

You read about people "losing their battle with cancer". I believe Kelley won her battle. She fought this nasty disease with courage, conviction and dignity. She outlived all expectations. She allowed us to kiss her more, to hold her hand more, to hug her more, to laugh with her more, to love with her more. She was able to read more stories to her boys. She was able to snuggle and comfort Jack and Teddy more when they woke in the middle of the night crying for mommy. She won this battle. What a beautiful person.

On a personal note, Kelley and I were friends and co-workers at a Minneapolis publishing company for more than four years. I'll always cherish the memories of sharing hockey stories with her around the office, and smile just a little when I recall her attending hockey games in the early days of her relationship with Jon. Kelley was always easy to spot in the crowd, because when all of the fans were watching the puck, her head was usually turned the other way, intently watching the guy in the stripes that she'd fallen so hard for.

I last saw Kelley nearly a year ago, and it's no surprise that we were at a hockey game. She was moving a little slower than before, and there were signs that she was feeling some discomfort, but the one thing that hadn't change was her smile. That ever-present smile is one memory that those of us who knew Kelley will never forget.

Be well, Kelley. Your hockey family misses you already.

Late storm has travelers changing on the fly: After WCHA fans in many areas suffered through a mostly brown Christmas, snow pounded the Upper Midwest on the first day of March, and the predictions of blizzard conditions caused at least two teams to change travel plans.

Instead of flying on Thursday, Wisconsin, which plays at Minnesota Duluth this weekend, hopped on a northbound bus late Wednesday night and arrived in the Twin Ports in the wee hours of Thursday morning. After the Badgers had to spend almost an entire extra day in Houghton last weekend due to snow, they apparently weren't going to risk a long wait at an airport again.

Michigan Tech, which visits Minnesota, also hopped on a bus late Wednesday, leaving Houghton around 9 p.m. that night and getting as far as the Holiday Inn in Eau Claire, Wis., by early Thursday morning. After a few hours with America's Host, the Huskies made it to Mariucci Arena by Thursday afternoon and should face no further delays in their quest for home ice.

The one team that seemed unfazed by the weather was North Dakota, which kept its regular schedule and arrived in St. Cloud by bus Thursday evening despite blizzard and whiteout conditions gripping much of Minnesota. Apparently, snow and blowing snow is not a huge deal for bus drivers who have earned their stripes braving the roads of the Red River Valley.

Great Weekend Getaway
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North Dakota at St. Cloud State

Anyone who can't get a ticket to either of the games at the National Hockey Center this weekend should wait two weeks and there will likely be about 13,000 more seats available. These two are clearly the hottest teams in the conference if not the nation, and seemed destined to meet again at the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul. NoDak is 11-2-3 since the holidays and after a disastrous first half has played up it its enormous potential. The Huskies can still win the WCHA regular season title outright with a sweep this weekend and a pair of Gopher losses.

While You're There: For those of us who like a good bite to eat and a laid-back atmosphere with our adult beverages, there's a nice oasis from the loud music of downtown St. Cloud to be had just across the river. How long has the Ace Bar (423 E Saint Germain Street) been the place to go in St. Cloud? When you're at the rink, check out the decades-old Huskies jersey on display under glass, and note the Ace Bar sponsorship patch on the shoulder. Great stuff.

Stick Salute

For 37 seasons (all but two of them as an unpaid volunteer), Thomas "Dukes" Knutson has been a fixture in the DECC pressbox, serving as the official scorer for Bulldog hockey games. It all ends this weekend, as Dukes is retiring from his teaching job and moving to Florida at the end of the school year. To this man of great faith and friendship, for his service to the college game, we say do us a favor Dukes, and on the last goal this weekend, put yourself down for the second assist. You've earned it.

Bench Minor

While it's great to have home playoff spots and trophies still up for grabs this weekend, it's disappointing that two teams (Minnesota State and Alaska Anchorage) will be idle while the other eight play games this weekend. How about the WCHA schedule-makers ensuring that all 10 teams are playing conference games on the final weekend of the season next year?


• Two WCHA players, St. Cloud State forward Nate Raduns and Denver goaltender Glenn Fisher, are among 10 finalists for the first Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. The new trophy, which is sponsored by the home improvement giant, is designed to honor a senior player that excels in "classroom, character and community," in addition to performance in the hockey rink during this season. The winner will be determined by a vote of fans, coaches and the media, and will be announced at the Frozen Four.

• Even if Michigan Tech doesn't make its first Frozen Four trip since 1981 this season, the Huskies will be sending at least one player to St. Louis. Senior defenseman Lars Helminen has been selected to participate in the Pontiac Skills Challenge, which will be held April 6 at the Scottrade Center. Tech's Nick Anderson skated in the inaugural Skills Challenge last April in Milwaukee.

• While the Badger hockey team got to Duluth in spite of the weather, the snow means the FSN Wisconsin broadcast crew will have a much different look for the broadcasts of this weekend's games versus Minnesota Duluth. Paul Braun and Tom Sagissor were unable to make the trip, so FSN will pick up a feed from WDIO-TV in Duluth, with Steve Jezerski and former Bulldog Kraig Karakas calling the action.

• In the "baby steps" department, Alaska Anchorage is idle this weekend and is therefore guaranteed of finishing in the WCHA cellar for the second year in a row. But with 12 overall wins and eight WCHA wins, the Seawolves doubled their 2005-06 victory total in both categories.

• Past glories will be celebrated on Saturday night in Colorado Springs when a dozen members of the 1956-57 Colorado College team will be on hand. Fifty years ago, the Tigers beat Michigan 13-6 in the NCAA title game, played at Broadmoor World Arena.

• Minnesota State is off this weekend, but will head onto the road for the playoffs on a 7-3-3 streak after last weekend's home sweep of Colorado College. The Mavericks were a hit at the home box office this season, drawing an average of 3,860 to 18 home games – the second-best attendance figure in school history.

Last Friday's 5-1 setback at St. Cloud State marked the first time Minnesota sophomore goaltender Jeff Frazee has ever lost a road game. He's now 9-1-2 all-time while wearing the maroon sweater.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report. Jess Myers can be reached at