Tigers, Tigers, Everywhere
Minn. – There's an old legend about facing a wild animal
in the wilderness. The last thing you want to do is startle them.
It's almost the same way if you're a hockey team and you come
across a Tiger on the ice, except the big no-no against Colorado
College is to take a penalty.
got to its first Final Five in a half-decade by using an above-average
penalty kill, and they looked good again Friday versus the Tigers.
But facing the nation's top team, and top power play unit, sooner
or later you're going to take one penalty too many.
Minnesota-Duluth 3 OT
Stauffacher, B. Hammond
Brosz, B. Geisler
Polaski, M. Stuart
Hammond, J. Lessard
Sejna, M. Stuart
Rob Anderson, 67:18, 37 saves, 4 GA
Curtis McElhinney, 67:18, 20 saves, 3 GA
MD 7/14; CC 4/8
Plays: MD 0-4; CC 1-7
killers did a great job, but unfortunately we didn't kill the
one we really needed to," said Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin.
can take solace in the fact that they killed six CC power plays
in the semifinal. But that seventh one was – pun intended
– a killer. UMD goalie Rob Anderson was whistled for slashing
with less than 12 minutes left in regulation and the Bulldogs
hanging on to a 3-2 lead. It took CC defenseman Tom Preissing
less than a minute of man-advantage to knot the game, and the
Tigers eventually won 4-3 in overtime on Brett Sterling's goal.
reflected about the collective talent of the likes of Preissing,
Sterling, Clarke and Sejna, and what a bad idea it is to put them
up by a man once, let alone seven times.
time you put those guys on the power play that many times, it's
just a matter of time before they do something special,"
said the goalie.
had nothing but compliments for their opponents afterwards. Coach
Scott Owens noted that UMD didn't look like a team that had played
five games in eight days. And Sterling admitted that the Bulldogs
had them befuddled on special teams. For a while anyway.
on the power play," he said. "They had a really good
penalty kill forecheck going. But eventually we settled down and
made some adjustments."
And for the
handful of Tigers fans in attendance, the key adjustment that
landed in the back of the UMD net came not a moment too soon.
Minnesota State, Mankato 2 OT
Joseph, A. Forsythe
Bassett, G. Stevenson
Ballard, P. Martin
Riddle, C. Harrington
Jon Volp, 63:57, 46 saves, 3 GA
Justin Johnson, 63:57, 14 saves, 2 GA
MS 7/14; UM 4/8
Plays: MS 1-3; UM 1-6
HOME AT THE X AGAIN
forward Grant Potulny used to love the Xcel Energy Center. Then
he hated the place. Now he likes it again. Such is the up-and-down
world of playing in St. Paul when you're a Gopher.
ago the rink was heaven for the winger from Grand Forks, N.D.,
when he scored the OT winner in the NCAA title game. In October,
when the Gophers played Ohio State in the Hall of Fame Game there,
the X was somewhere south of heaven for Grant, who broke his ankle
in the game and missed more than two months of the season.
night's WCHA Final Five semifinal win over Minnesota State, Mankato,
Potulny and the X patched things up, as he scored the tying goal
before Thomas Vanek won it in overtime.
kind of emotional for me," said Potulny. "If I would've
scored in the same end of the rink where I got hurt, I was going
to go kick the boards. But I've got no more hard feelings about
this place now."
a junior and a leader on a team that has been sparked by the play
of Vanek, a freshman who lately plays like a rookie – an
NHL rookie, that is. So when overtime came, one might think that
the rookie went to the veteran for advice. To the contrary, Vanek
said that the Gophers are Potulny's show, and he's just along
for the ride.
the third period, I just sat back and let the old guys talk,"
said Vanek, drawing a laugh from the assembled media. "Guys
like Grant have all of the experience. I just ride the bus."
And a few
minutes into OT, in a game Minnesota dominated end-to-end, Vanek
parked the bus. His rising shot from the left circle glanced off
Mavericks goalie Jon Volp's right shoulder and settled into the
upper corner of the net, sending Minnesota to the title game for
a second consecutive year.
would've moved over a quarter of an inch, the puck would've hit
my shoulder squarely and bounced away," said Volp, who finished
with 46 saves. "But give him credit for a great shot."
And for Potulny,
being in a building he loves, again, gives the Gophers a great
shot at a WCHA playoff title.
AND HEARD AT THE XCEL
telling reporters that his team had no chance of making the NCAAs
after Sunday's loss in Duluth, St. Cloud State coach Craig Dahl
went back home, took a close look at the Pairwise rankings, and
had his team on the ice for practice on Thursday night and again
commissioner Bruce McLeod missed the league's awards dinner and
the Thursday night play-in game due to the blizzard that hit Colorado.
Not only could McLeod not get a flight out of Denver, he couldn't
even get out of his own neighborhood until late Thursday. After
a little help from friends in high
places who called the president of Northwest Airlines to get McLeod
on a "priority list," the former Minnesota-Duluth player
and athletic director finally
arrived in St. Paul on Friday afternoon, just in time to see the
Bulldogs fall to CC.
sign of the times across the street from the arena: In these days
of war and heightened homeland security, visitors to the central
heating plant (which supplies heat to all of downtown St. Paul's
buildings) across Kellogg Boulevard from the rink are greeted
at the door by two St. Paul police officers in camouflage riot
gear, carrying machine guns.
general consensus among those in the know about the ways of the
NCAA say it's fortunate that the national tournament was expended
to 16 teams prior to the demise of the Fairfield and Iona programs.
It's unknown whether the NCAA would've gone for 16 of 58 teams
making the nationals, but 16 of 60 was apparently more palatable.
band note of the night: Every time Gophers goalie Justin Johnson
made a big save, Minnesota's pep band cranks into "Any Way
You Want It" by Journey. That song was made famous in the
1980 movie "Caddyshack" and Johnson's helmet is adorned
with the likeness of "Mr. Gopher" from the film.
Minnesota-Duluth strength coach Justin May, for getting his team
ready to play on roughly 12 hours rest. Sandelin said before the
tournament start that if the Bulldogs could win on Thursday and
they were ready to go again on Friday, May would deserve a raise.
Sandy, taking the nation's top team to OT after a short night
should be worth a little extra dough-re-mi.
Ralph Engelstad Arena rink announcer Scott Hennen, for his enthusiastic
and unbiased work at the microphone during Thursday's play-in
game. The voice of the Sioux could have made the X feel like the
home of the Sioux, but he was balanced throughout, which showed
real class. And his voice is the best in the WCHA.
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty for appearing on the WCHA's Internet
radio broadcast prior to the Gophers-Mavericks game. Say what
you want about the guy's policies, but Timmy's a hockey fan. And
after 12 years of Gopher hoops fans and Timberwolves fans in the
Minnesota Guv's Mansion, that's a welcome change.
Colorado College and Minnesota-Duluth for not bringing bands to
the Friday afternoon semifinal. Sure, the in-rink deejay is good,
but what's college hockey without at least one pep band? At least
both schools had good excuses. The Bulldog band was in Duluth
playing for their women's team at the Frozen Four, and Colorado
College doesn't have a band. As one Tigers' fan explained, "There
are only 1,800 kids at the whole school!" Hey, it only takes
about 15 to make a pep band.
the guy who tried to get on Fox Sports Net with the "Finish
Saddam Now" sign. Dude, there's a time for war and a time
for hockey. Let's keep them separate.
night national anthem singer Esera Tuaolo. This former Minnesota
Viking defensive tackle showed great courage and made headlines
in the past year when he admitted being gay, and he's got a great
singing voice. But the 90-second version of the anthem is SOOOO
much better than his three-minute version.
For the Gophers
it's about a banner. For the Tigers, it's about a trophy. For
both, it's about what comes next week. Minnesota and Colorado
College meet for the WCHA Final Five championship Saturday night,
as the Gophers seek to win their first playoff title since 1996,
and the Tigers seek to win their first ever.
The winner gets the
Broadmoor Trophy, named after the Colorado Springs hotel and arena
where Tiger hockey was born.
"We've never won
the trophy that's named after the place that gave birth to our
program, so to do it here would be a great honor," said Tigers
coach Scott Owens.
For Minnesota's Grant
Potulny, he looks at the title game as a chance to do in one night
what it took the Tigers all season to do.
"One game to get
a banner," he said. "The Tigers took all year to win
the regular season banner. If we play well in one game, we'll
have a championship banner too."
CC is expected
to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs regardless of what happens Saturday
night. For the Gophers, a win might earn them a top seed too.
and Minnesota State, Mankato will play for third place at 2 p.m.
CST. The Mavericks are assured of an NCAA bid, while the Bulldogs
– 21st in Saturday's latest Pairwise – are going home
on Sunday with no more hockey to play.