March 19, 2003
Mirror, mirror on the ice

Minnesota 7 ,
Minnesota Duluth 4
Team Goal Str
Time Assists

First Period

1-MD Luke Stauffacher (15) EV
2:08 T. Stapleton, M. Peluso
2-MD Evan Schwabe (15) EV
9:06 J. Unklesbay, B. Geisler
1-MN Troy Riddle (22) PP
14:03 R. Potulny, M. Koalska
3-MD Evan Schwabe (16) EV
14:21 J. Williams, J. Lessard
2-MN Danny Irmen (11) EV
19:25 G. Guyer, J. Fleming
Second Period
3-MN Danny Irmen (12) SH
4:51 K. Ballard
4-MN R. Potulny EV
14:25 Unassisted
Third Period
4-MD Justin Williams (11) EV
0:40 E. Schwabe, J. Lessard
5-MN Thomas Vanek (23) EV
3:45 T. Riddle, M. Koalska
6-MN Andy Sertich (8) EV
14:41 J. Waibel, M. Vannelli
7-MN Barry Tallackson (10) EN
19:24 J. Waibel, J. Fleming
MN: Kellen Briggs, 60:00, 27 saves, 4 GA
MD: Isaac Reichmuth, 57:53, 34 saves, 6 GA
Penalties: MN 6/12; MD 5/10
Power Plays: MN 1-4; MD 0-5
Attendance: 19,208

By Jess Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Fans who follow Minnesota hockey saw the Golden Gophers' 2003-04 season neatly summed up on the ice of
the Xcel Energy Center on Friday night. Minnesota trailed by two goals at two separate times in the first period, and things looked bleak. Then there was
an maroon and gold explosion.

The Gophers scored six of the game's final seven goals, blasting past Minnesota Duluth for a 7-4 win and a chance to defending their WCHA Final Five title.

This mirror of a season comes from a team that started the year 2-7-1, then won 23 of their next 31, and stands poised to get a top seed in one of the NCAA's regionals. And Don Lucia, the Gophers' coach, said that after Saturday's title game, the hard part might be behind them.

"I don't care if we're fortunate enough to be playing a month from now, we won't face two better teams than Duluth and North Dakota," said Lucia.

It took a rousing comeback for the Gophers to snap a five-game losing streak versus Minnesota Duluth. The
Bulldogs out-shot Minnesota 13-4 in the opening minutes, jumping out to a 2-0 lead, and grabbing a 3-1 lead with less than a minute to play in the opening

But Danny Irmen's four-on-four goal in the closing seconds of the first provided Minnesota all the momentum it would need for later.

"We had a great first period, but that goal right at the end was a downer," said Bulldogs forward Evan Schwabe, who scored twice in the first. "We didn't come out and play in the second or the third."

Instead, the Gophers got another goal from Irmen and goals from Ryan Potulny (his sixth in four games), Thomas Vanrek, Andy Sertich and Barry Tallackson to cruise into the title game.

Sadly for Bulldogs fans, Minnesota's performance might not be the only mirror on the ice. Minnesota Duluth was flying a month ago, but is now 3-4-1 in their last seven, and saw a big lead slip away for the second game in a row.

"Look at what happened against Mankato," said Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin. "We were up 5-0 in the first 11 minutes, then we had to hang on to win 6-5, so this has happened two games in a row. You're not going to win if you play defense like that."

North Dakota 4,
Alaska Anchorage 2
Team Goal Str
Time Assists

First Period

1-ND Brady Murray (19) EV
15:56 Z. Parise, B. Bochenski
Second Period
2-ND Rory McMahon (10) EV
2:16 R. Hale, M. Prpich
3-ND Zach Parise (21) EV
9:01 B. Bochenski, B. Murray
1-AA Curtis Glencross (20) PP
10:30 J. Bourne, B. Segal
4-ND Ryan Hale (3) EV
15:50 M. Jones, R. McMahon
Third Period
2-AA Lee Green (2) EV
17:18 Unassisted
AA: Chris King, 58:34, 41 saves, 4 GA
ND: Jordan Parise, 60:00, 22 saves, 2 GA
Penalties: AA 12/24; ND 16/32
Power Plays: AA 1-8; ND 0-4
Attendance: 13,597

Reunited To Serve the Nation

When North Dakota coach Dean Blais had Scott Sandelin at his side in Grand Forks, the pair combined to coach the Fighting Sioux to a pair of NCAA titles. The folks at USA Hockey are hoping that a reunion of that pair will mean gold next winter.

Blais took a break from prepping his team for the Final Five on Thursday to have USA Hockey name him the head coach (with Sandelin as his assistant coach) for Team USA's entry in the 2005 World Junior Championship. The tournament starts Christmas Day 2004
at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks.

Blais coached the team once before, finishing sixth in 1994 in the Czech Republic. He admits he didn't think much about doing it again until seeing a trio of his players (Zach Parise, Brady Murray and Drew Stafford) return from Finland in January with gold medals.

"It was a real thrill seeing those guys walk out onto our rink wearing their medals and hearing the crowd," said Blais. "That made me want to do it again, so I called USA Hockey and begged."

For Sandelin, who played in the tournament while he was a student at North Dakota, the assistant coaching gig is a thrill for two reasons.

"It's going to be a priviledge to work with Dean again and to get another chance to represent our country," said Sandelin, shortly after being named the WCHA's coach of the year. "For us, coaching for your country is as good as it gets."

Blais biggest challenge might come on Dec. 19, when Team USA plays an exhibition game versus North Dakota in Grand Forks. Blais said he will spend that game on the visitors bench, coaching Team USA, and leave the
Sioux in the hands of his assistants.


• The WCHA has signed a contract to hold its Final Five at the Xcel Energy Center through the 2006 season, but the tournament's success has other
buildings interested. The Bradley Center in Milwaukee, which hosted the tournament in 1994, '96 and '98, has made inquiries about bidding on the tournament again, and it was revealed Friday that the folks at the Pepsi
Center in Denver have made similar inquiries. Most media covering the tournament agree that either of those buildings would be fine, as long as a return to the woefully hockey-inadequate Target Center in Minneapolis is not considered.

• Alaska Anchorage coach John Hill seemed most pleased that Thursday's win by his team would give the players something to do during their time in St. Paul.

"I'm just glad we're playing Friday and Saturday because we can't get a flight back home until Tuesday. That's what you've got to deal with when you're in
Anchorage. And can you imagine trying to keep a curfew with these guys for four days with no games?"

• Breakfast of champions? North Dakota's players and coaches were somewhat befuddled by the pre-game meal made available to them at the St. Paul Hotel prior to their date with Alaska Anchorage on Friday. According
to Sioux coach Dean Blais, the spread consisted of "spaghetti and eggs." After North Dakota dispatched the Seawolves handily with that in their bellies,
perhaps spaghetti and eggs will be on their training table for the rest of the season.

• With Minnesota and Minnesota Duluth both assured a spot in the NCAA playoffs next week, the coaches admitted that pride was the biggest thing at stake on Friday.

"Whether we get a one or a two seed doesn't mean a lot to me," said Sandelin. "If it was still a 12-team tournament, this would've been a really important game. But with 16 teams, you're going to have to win twice no matter where you go or who you play."

Lucia echoed those comments, saying that his team was remarkably calm despite falling behind early.

"We're not in desperation mode," he said. "Regardless of what happens, we're still playing next weekend."


To Anchorage Daily News beat writer Doyle Woody for his post-game efforts. Woody is one of the true nightlife experts in the WCHA, and has thoroughly enjoyed his time in St. Paul. Interviewed by the WCHA's Internet Broadcast crew on Friday (after a particularly late Thursday night out), Woody was told that he looked as fatigued as Seawolves goalie Chris King (who had made 44 saves on Thursday). Woody replied, "Chris had more saves, but I had a harder night.".

To Minnesota, for knowing how to turn it on with a big crowd on hand. With 19,208 on hand Friday (the largest crowd in WCHA history) the Gophers turned it on for the win. The previos record crowd was 18,523
two years ago when Minnesota beat St. Cloud State 4-1 in the Final Five semifinal.

Our annual minus to Colorado College for their lack of a band. That play-in game was too quiet without either team having a band there. We can't fault Alaska Anchorage just yet (they're new here) but the
inability of CC to find four guys with trumpets and a drummer year after year is baffling.

To Gophers coach Don Lucia for not making his players available to the media after Friday's game. When the Bulldogs took a long time in the post-game press conference, Lucia insisted that his players leave the building and didn't inform members of the media that there were no players coming until the press conference was over. While Don is sometimes good for a notable quote, it would've been nice to get a viewpoint from somebody on the ice.


For the third straight season, Minnesota will play for the WCHA's playoff title, and for the third straight year, the Gophers are hoping to make that game a springboard to the NCAA title. They face a North Dakota team that hasn't lost for a month, and has all but wrapped up the top seed in the NCAA West Regional.

North Dakota last appeared in the WCHA Final Five title game in 2001, falling to St. Cloud State in overtime before advancing to the Frozen Four a week
later (where the Sioux fell to Boston College in overtime of the NCAA title game).

Minnesota coach Don Lucia says his team can't under-perform in the first period against North Dakota's potent offense. And those who have faced the Gophers recently say they're not a team you can fall behind against.

"They're a team that smells blood," said Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin on Friday. "They're still the defending champs until somebody knocks them off."

With seemingly half of the state of North Dakota hanging out in St. Paul this weekend, it's sure to be crowded and loud in the rink on Saturday. Expect more than 19,000 again to watch one team get the banner, and the pre-NCAAs momentum.

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