Minnesota takes title, but talk is of NCAA tourney
Minn. – Legendary comic actor and director Woody Allen is
renowned to be a fan of the New York Knicks, not the Minnesota-Duluth
Bulldogs. And in Allen's 1971 movie "Bananas," he wasn't
talking about the NCAA hockey tournament's selection process when
he said: "It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery
of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham."
But in the
opinion of many who follow Minnesota's second-oldest D-I hockey
program, Allen's rant certainly applies to the way the field of
16 is picked. That's because it's expected that Minnesota's third-oldest
D-I hockey program, St. Cloud State, is headed to the NCAAs, while
the Bulldogs are headed to a really nice year-end banquet. Even
as Minnesota was claiming its Broadmoor Trophy (see box score,
right, and story, below), the talk in St. Paul centered on the
NCAA selection process.
Colorado College 2
Potulny continued his spectacular play at the Xcel Energy
Center, recording two goals and an assist – all in
the first 5:25 – to lead Minnesota to a 4-2 win over
Colorado College in the WCHA Tournament championship game.
victory gives the Gophers their fourth Broadmoor Trophy
in the last 10 years, and a good shot at the No. 1 seed
in the West Regional when the pairing are announced tomorrow.
the early 3-0 deficit, Colorado College charged back, narrowing
the gap to 4-2 on Peter Sejna's 35th goal of the year 6:41
into the third. Gopher goaltender Justin Johnson (36 saves)
held strong from that point on, however, to secure the win.
Potulny, B. Tallackson
Vanek, M. Koalska
Preissing, A. Canzanello
Clarke, A. Canzanello
Justin Johnson, 60:00, 36 saves, 2 GA
Curtis McElhinney, 58:47, 21 saves, 4 GA
UM 7/14; CC 5/10
Plays: UM 1-4; CC 2-6
Justin Johnson, Minnesota
D: Keith Ballard, Minnesota
D: Tom Preissing, Colorado College
F: Shane Joseph, Minnesota State, Mankato
F: Junior Lessard, Minnesota-Duluth
F: Grant Potulny, Minnesota (MVP)
who have been to the NCAAs the past three years in a row (going
0-3) finished sixth in the WCHA regular season standings, and
lost to the Bulldogs in the first round of the playoffs, seemingly
ending SCSU's season with a 17-15-5 mark. But UMD, which improved
to 22-15-5 on Saturday with a 6-4 win over Minnesota State, Mankato
(the Bulldogs were lining up to kick the extra point when time
expired), is being badly hurt in the NCAA's selection formula
due to disparities in their strength of schedule.
played non-conference series against Ferris State, Rensselaer
and Providence, going 4-2 in those games. The Bulldogs had Notre
Dame, Bemidji State, Union and Rensselaer on their non-conference
slate, and went 4-3-1 versus the Irish, Beavers, Dutchmen and
Engineers. And the way the system works, St. Cloud State's 6-3
loss to CCHA champion Ferris State may have helped the Huskies
more than Minnesota-Duluth's 12-0 win at Bemidji State helped
UMD's advancing to the Final Five and winning two of three there
(losing after taking the nation's top team to overtime on 16 hours
rest), and despite going 11-4-1 in their last 16 (while SCSU went
7-7-4 in the same stretch), the NCAA computer gives a thumbs-up
to Craig Dahl's crew, and sends the Bulldogs home. (The NCAA removed
the "record in the last 16" criteria for selection this
It's not just
the Bulldogs and their fans thinking there's something wrong with
got to question whether you belong in the NCAAs if you don't finish
in the top half of your league and you don't win the first round
of the playoffs," said
MSU coach Troy Jutting. "I think Duluth has a very strong
argument that they should be in the tournament. They definitely
should be given more consideration than they probably will be."
Asked if he'd
feel cheated if the Huskies play on and his team doesn't, Bulldogs
freshman goalie Isaac Reichmuth had a concise one-word answer.
he said, adding, "They're a good hockey team, so it's nothing
against them, but us beating them in the playoffs and coming here
and winning a couple of games should get us in ahead of them."
Scott Sandelin seemed more resigned to his team's fate, saying
that he came to St. Paul knowing the Bulldogs needed three wins
to get in, and they only won two. Still, he thinks his team is
playing some pretty good hockey – especially in the last
six weeks – and admitted that not getting in the tourney
is a disappointment.
is looking down on us from above and we get in, great, but it's
out of our hands," he said.
most feel, is that it's not in anyone's hands. It's being decided
in the circuits of a computer that will send MSU, North Dakota
and St. Cloud State to the NCAAs, while leaving out the team that
beat all of them in the past week. On behalf of the Bulldogs and
their fans, Jutting is among those already saying "wait'll
don't get in, I think it'll provide a lot of impetus for a very
talented young hockey team to be a force to be reckoned with next
season," Jutting said.
too bad they won't be reckoned with next week.
Minnesota State, Mankato 4
Petruic, T. Brosz
Stevenson, S. Joseph
Bassett, G. Stevenson
Bassett, B.J. Abel
Anderson, J. Francisco
Dubel, S. Joseph
Isaac Reichmuth, 60:00, 23 saves, 4 GA
Jason Jensen, 20:00, 7 saves, 3 GA; Jon Volp, 37:46, 27 saves,
MD 6/12; MS 7/14
Plays: MD 0-5; MS 3-4
BETTER THAN THE BEST?
most shocking quote of WCHA Final Five weekend came not at any
of the league's official press conferences, but in a pressbox
conversation between a retired coach and a writer who rarely covers
college hockey. On Friday, former Minnesota skipper Doug Woog
told Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse that this
year's Gopher team is better than the one that skated off with
the NCAA title 49 weeks ago.
will clearly be put to the test in the coming weeks. But when
asked about the comment after their 4-2 win over Colorado College
for the WCHA playoff crown, the players and coach didn't shy away
from the idea that they're a step ahead of last year – even
without the likes of Jeff Taffe, Johnny Pohl and Jordan Leopold.
a much different team that last year, and clearly we couldn't
have done what we did last year without those superstars,"
said Grant Potulny. "But we've got 20 guys this year who
are all on the same page and all working toward one goal. So maybe
having 20 guys all pulling in the same direction is as good as
having three superstars to lead the way."
Lucia won't say if his '03 team is better than his '02 model,
but he does stress that if the Gophers get back to the Frozen
Four, it won't be just making another run with the same set of
one senior in our lineup this year, so it's like having a completely
new team," he said. "When the playoffs started last
week, we had eight guys in the lineup who had never skated in
a playoff game. So we don't have the superstars like last year,
but we're playing very well right now."
Tournament Three Stars
Justin Johnson, Minnesota In
2000, North Dakota star goalie Karl Goehring got hurt right
before the start of the playoffs, and backup Andy Kollar led
the Fighting Sioux (who had finished second in the regular
season) to the WCHA playoff title. A few weeks later, with
Goehring back in the lineup, the Sioux won the Frozen Four.
With Johnson filling in for the injured Travis Weber (who's
expected to be back next week) this weekend, lots of WCHA
followers are having déjà vu.
Peter Sejna, Colorado College In
the third period of the title game, with his team trailing
4-1, Sejna launched a bad angle shot that found a tiny, tiny
gap between Johnson's shoulder and the goal post. It was Sejna's
35th goal of the year. Afterward, Don Lucia told the media
he's instructed his players never to try that shot because
you so rarely score when they goalie is giving up such a tiny
opening by leaning toward the shooter. "Our guys will
score on that shot maybe one out of 1,000 tries," said
Lucia. "(Sejna) could probably score there on one out
Grant Potulny, Minnesota Two
games, three goals, one assist, one game-winning goal, one
game-tying goal, one championship banner, one MVP award, one
top seeding in the regional. Any questions?
AND HEARD AT THE XCEL
Cloud State coach Craig Dahl took a break from prepping his team
for their expected trip to the East Coast for the first round
of the NCAAs and attended Saturday night's title game. Upon being
congratulated for the Huskies apparent qualification for the tourney,
he waxed philosophically about cosmic justice. "In two of
the past six years, we've been good enough to go but have gotten
knocked out by upsets in tournaments in the East, so maybe turnabout
is fair play," he said.
biggest boo heard during the third place game came when a promo
for an upcoming Dixie Chicks concert was show on the arena's video
board. Apparently Chicks' lead singer Natalie Maines isn't making
fans among the college hockey crowd with her recent rip on the
President. (For those of you who haven't watched anything but
your local Fox Sports Net affiliate in weeks, Maines said she
was ashamed by be a Texan, because the state also produced Dubbya.)
the Detroit Red Wings in St. Paul to play the Wild on Sunday,
WCHA public relations director Doug Spencer (a die-hard Wings
fan since his formative days in Farmington, Mich.) had hoped to
have Chris Chelios (Wisconsin), Brett Hull (Minnesota-Duluth)
and Curtis Joseph (Wisconsin) perform the ceremonial puck drop
prior to the tournament's title game. But Detroit's Saturday afternoon
game in St. Louis ran long, and the team didn't arrive in Minnesota
in time for the players to get to the rink before the faceoff.
Chelios arrived in the second period with Steve Yzerman and the
pair watched the game in the press box.
College's tiger mascot, Prowler, didn't make the trip to St. Paul.
But the Tigers had a mascot of sorts in the building anyway. With
Kellogg's serving as title sponsor for the Final Five, fans got
to shake hands and get their picture taken with the Keebler Elf
and Tony the Tiger (of Frosted Flakes fame) throughout the weekend.
And instead of bronze medals after winning the third place game,
Minnesota-Duluth's players were rewarded with boxes of Kellogg's
Owens noted that due to an NCAA rule change this season, a host
team at an NCAA Regional (like Michigan and Minnesota this year)
will no longer have to give up its own locker room to make way
for the No. 1 seed. But from the Tigers' perspective, no rule
change was necessary. Owens said moving the Wolverines or the
Gophers out of their rooms next weekend wouldn't have been worth
the designers of the Xcel Energy Center who decided to make the
west side of the building all glass. When you've essentially been
inside an arena for three straight days (even an arena as nice
as this one) you start to miss the outside world a little bit.
The fact that during those quiet moments between games on Saturday
afternoon/evening, writers in the pressbox were able to see the
setting sun through the arena windows was a really nice unexpected
Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin for his candor and sense
of humor throughout the weekend. The low-key Sandelin, who admitted
that he doesn't like being at the podium during press conferences,
was friendly and provided funny stuff all weekend. When asked
about his team's standings in the Pairwise rankings on Friday,
he gave a self-deprecating grin and said, "I don't understand
all of the math. I just know we have to win." And when his
time on the stage was done on Saturday, he nodded to the media
with a smile and said, "Its been nice seeing all of you here
the past three days." Nice to see you too, Sandy. Maybe we'll
see you back here next year at this time.
fans of non-participating teams who go a little overboard in the
"gameday apparel" department. Hey, if you're a Sioux
fan, be proud. And if you want to wear your UND sweater to the
third place game between Minnesota-Duluth and Minnesota State,
Mankato, more power to you. But to wear the sweater, the green
and white Zubas, the green Cat-In-The-Hat lid and the three strings
of shiny green beads when your team was on a bus back to Grand
Forks more than a day ago just looks silly. (What, no face paint?)
Save it for the NCAAs.
the Gopher fans behind the arena's west goal with the big sign
that read "SIV." Apparently you can no longer minor
in Spelling at the U.