Mirror, mirror on the ice
Minnesota Duluth 4
Stapleton, M. Peluso
Unklesbay, B. Geisler
Potulny, M. Koalska
Williams, J. Lessard
Guyer, J. Fleming
Schwabe, J. Lessard
Riddle, M. Koalska
Waibel, M. Vannelli
Waibel, J. Fleming
Kellen Briggs, 60:00, 27 saves, 4 GA
Isaac Reichmuth, 57:53, 34 saves, 6 GA
MN 6/12; MD 5/10
Plays: MN 1-4; MD 0-5
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.
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
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
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,"
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
Irmen's four-on-four goal in the closing seconds of the first
provided Minnesota all the momentum it would need for later.
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."
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.
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.
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."
Alaska Anchorage 2
Parise, B. Bochenski
Hale, M. Prpich
Bochenski, B. Murray
Bourne, B. Segal
Jones, R. McMahon
Chris King, 58:34, 41 saves, 4 GA
Jordan Parise, 60:00, 22 saves, 2 GA
AA 12/24; ND 16/32
Plays: AA 1-8; ND 0-4
To Serve the Nation
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.
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.
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.
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."
who played in the tournament while he was a student at North Dakota,
the assistant coaching gig is a thrill for two reasons.
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."
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
Sioux in the hands of his assistants.
AND HEARD AT THE X
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
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.
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.
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?"
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.
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.
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
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."
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.".
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
two years ago when Minnesota beat St. Cloud State 4-1 in the Final
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
inability of CC to find four guys with trumpets and a drummer
year after year is baffling.
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.
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).
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
a team that smells blood," said Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin
on Friday. "They're still the defending champs until somebody
knocks them off."
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.