In Tech's come-from-behind overtime win over
Minnesota, all three of the Huskies goals were season firsts.
The 3-2 victory featured the first career goal by junior
defenseman John Schwarz (in his 75th collegiate game) and
the first career goal by rookie defenseman Deron Cousens.
The overtime winner, a long-range shot that changed directions
on its path past Gopher goaltender Alex Kangas, was the
first goal of the season by Alex Gagne.
Afterward, a reporter noted to Huskies coach
Jamie Russell that the win came because of some unusual
sources of offense. Then, after a beat, the reporter asked,
"Do you have usual sources of offense?"
The Huskies' 2.36 goals-per-game offensive
average isn't the worst in the league (Minnesota State is
averaging 2.25) but the message is clear that defense, and
scoring by the defenders, is going to be the key if Tech
is going to make a return trip to the WCHA Final Five.
In the win over Minnesota (which gave Russell
a 4-1-0 record in five games at Mariucci) the defenders
scored to erase a 2-0 Minnesota lead, and the goaltender
forced overtime when Michael-Lee Teslak stopped Evan Kaufmann
on a breakaway in the final minutes of the third. Some goalies
would tremble with an opponent coming in all alone and close
to 10,000 enemy fans roaring. For Teslak, it was a moment
he lives for.
"That's a lot of fun," said the
goalie, who's among the WCHA's top four in both key statistical
categories. "A guy gets that opportunity, it's up to
you to make the save for your team. That's how you win games."
Teslak also noted with a smile that on the
play, hebenefited from having a lot of time to prepare,
as Kaufmann was in unobstructed from the far blue line.
"He made a number of big, big saves,
and obviously the game-changer on the breakaway," said
Russell. "He's a kid that has played great for us all
year. Really gives us a chance to win by making the saves
he's supposed to make, and then making the game-changing
save as well. Unfortunately, I don't think we're going to
have him as a senior."
That early departure would probably sit just
fine with opposing coaches. Minnesota came back for a 3-1
in the Saturday game, but Gopher coach Don Lucia said it's
no secret who keys the Huskies successes and the opponents'
"Tech's a good team, and when your goalie's
playing like he's playing it gives you a lot of confidence,"
Lucia said. "You know going in that you're going to
be in the game. He's going to give you a chance every night."
After improving to 5-2-0 on Nov. 2 with a
win at Wisconsin, the Huskies went nearly a month without
a victory, as fatigue and injuries mounted. With weekends
off before and after the Minnesota series, the Huskies have
gotten some much needed downtime to prepare for their arch-rival
home-and-home series with Northern Michigan, then a date
with defending NCAA champ Michigan State at the Great Lakes
"We were pretty banged up when we went
into Duluth," said Russell of a loss and tie by the
Huskies in late November. "Our first game was on the
national start date on Oct. 6, and we'd played every weekend
since then. Going into Duluth, I think the count was two
knees, two shoulders, a back, an ankle and two groins, so
the week off really came at a good time for us."
They started December on a one-game winning
streak and with another much needed chance to rest upon
retuning from Minneapolis. And with Teslak in goal for their
top-notch defense, it sounds like Huskies fans are resting
easy too, at least for the remainder of this season.
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE WCHA
This View Not Obstructed By Protective
Netting: Arena netting is further proof that we're
in an era of over-protection in the hockey world. In fact,
we might already be there. Currently, Mariucci Arena in
Minneapolis is the only WCHA rink without nets on the ends
to protect fans from errant pucks, and I've learned that
the arena folks there have the nets on hand already, and
will install them at the end of the current season.
This piece of protective equipment became
standard a few years ago when a young girl tragically lost
her life at a Columbus Blue Jackets home game. Since then,
every NHL rink and most college hockey rinks have put up
the nets. And if looking through a fishnet at hockey games
bothers you, life might get much worse in a few years. The
folks at Serving the American Rinks (STAR) in Colorado Springs
recently told me that we're not far away from netting all
the way around the rink becoming standard.
It seems that a woman sitting somewhere between
the blue lines at a New York Rangers game last winter at
Madison Square Garden was struck by a puck. The accident
led to a lawsuit in which the plaintiff is asking why fans
on the sides of the rink don't receive the same level of
protection as those sitting on the ends.
Here's my take: During the game there is one
puck on the ice. If you are not willing to pay attention
to that one puck, and prepared to protect yourself (and
any children who are with you) in the event that puck flies
out of play, the arena and the teams should not be responsible
for your protection. Now, warm-ups, when there are dozens
of pucks on the ice, are another matter. It's impossible
to keep your eye on every puck on the rink before the game,
and certainly a risky situation for fans sitting above the
So how about this solution: removable nets
that are in place during warm-ups, but lowered to the floor,
or raised into the rafters, during the game, giving fans
an unobstructed view of the ice. Works for me.
Great Weekend Getaway
at North Dakota
You never forget your first time. For me, that was
December 1984, when I went to Grand Forks on a cold,
snowy night to see Minnesota play North Dakota, and
was instantly hooked on college hockey. Having witnessed
hundreds more college games since then, there's still
a special feeling when these border rivals meet. For
Minnesota, there may be an extra feeling of dread
as the Gophers return to the scene of the crime (their
loss to Holy Cross in the 2006 NCAA playoffs) for
the first time.
While You're There: Forget the
overpriced waterpark on-site and the long hallway
that leads to North Dakota's football stadium and
the strange fact that there's a hotel named the Canad
Inns located in the United States. Focus instead on
the hotel's on-site bar, Tavern
United, which has the look and feel of an old
English pub, complete with great food, huge imported
beers on tap and some impressive talent taking beverage
orders. Just walk in the hotel's main lobby and hang
a left. You'll thank me later.
on Minnesota's Iron Range are hurting, and Minnesota
Duluth and the DECC are helping out. Fans who bring
a food item to one of the Bulldogs games with Alaska
Anchorage will receive a ticket discount for UMD's
upcoming game with the US Under-18 Team.
Battimo took quick action last Saturday and tossed
MTU's Malcolm Gwilliam from the game for checking
from behind, and put the Gophers on the power play
for five minutes. Gwilliam's hit wasn't from behind.
It was clearly from the side. Call the game tough,
but call it right.
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• Alaska Anchorage visits the DECC this
weekend and has to contend with Minnesota Duluth's renowned
defense and goaltending there. That's a familiar story for
the Seawolves, who have scored two goals or fewer in eight
of their last 10 games in Duluth.
• Colorado College allowed just one
goal last weekend, while getting a sweep at Alaska Anchorage,
but had a defensive streak snapped in the process. Until
Tommy Grant scored a man-advantage goal for the Seawolves
last Saturday, the Tigers had killed 31 consecutive penalties
and had gone eight games without allowing a PPG.
• With Tyler Ruegsegger and Rhett Rakhshani
heading to the World Junior Championships later this month,
the Denver Cup might be the premiere of Tyler Bozak's one-man
show. The Pioneers rookie is coming on strong, notching
his first career game-winner last weekend in a split with
North Dakota and scoring seven goals in Denver's last eight
• Minnesota's trip to Ralph Engelstad
Arena this weekend won't be the only trip where a team will
have to face bad memories of an opponent in purple. Wisconsin's
trip to Minnesota State this weekend is the first visit
to Mankato since the Badgers hit what they called "rock
bottom" at the end of the 2005-06 regular season, losing
6-4 and 7-3 to the Mavericks. Of course, that season had
a happy ending, some five weeks later, for Badger fans.
• St. Cloud State is not doing any holiday
baking this December. At least there are no cupcakes on
the horizon for the Huskies. The schedule in the next few
weeks features two at home with Denver (currently No. 5
in the INCH Power Rankings), then two at home with fourth-ranked
Colorado College. And right after Christmas, the Huskies
travel to Columbus to battle top-ranked Miami in the opener
of the Ohio Hockey Classic.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. Jess Myers can be reached