Like last season, North Dakota on a roll
heading into NCAAs
St. Cloud State 3,
Brocklehurst, D. Carlisle
Chorney, B. Lee
Toews, B. Lee
Toews, M. Smaby
Bobby Goepfert, 59:14, 24 saves, 5 GA
Jordan Parise, 37 saves, 3 GA
SC 5/10; NDK 9/18
Plays: SC 2-7; NDK 2-3
Jordan Parise, North Dakota (MVP)
D: Kyle Klubertanz, Wisconsin
D: Matt Smaby, North Dakota
F: Brock Hooton, St. Cloud State
F: T.J. Oshie, North Dakota
F: Ryan Potulny, Minnesota
PAUL, Minn. – Here they come again.
A month ago, it didn’t look like North
Dakota would be playing WCHA playoff games in their own
building. In a bit of a turnaround, they’re heading
back to Grand Forks with the Broadmoor Trophy and prepping
to play NCAA tournament games at Ralph Engelstad Arena instead.
For anyone who watched the Sioux rise from
obscurity and march to the NCAA title game last spring,
this might be looking like a rerun.
“Last year they were totally different,
and so physically dominant,” said St. Cloud State
coach Bob Motzko. “They’re playing well now
and their freshmen are carrying them. That’s what’s
scary. They’re doing something right over there.”
Saturday night’s WCHA playoff title
was the third won by North Dakota. It should be noted that
the previous two Sioux teams to win the Broadmoor Trophy
(in 1997 and 2000) went on to win the NCAA title a few weeks
later. But Sioux coach Dave Hakstol isn’t one to look
that far ahead.
“We’ve always taken things on
a short-term basis and never looked down the road,”
he said. “We talked tonight that we had a chance to
win a championship. That’s what was at the end of
the road for us tonight.”
And in their two wins in St. Paul, the Sioux
scored nine goals without the benefit of their best offensive
player, junior Drew Stafford, who has missed their last
four games with a knee injury, but is expected back in the
lineup for the NCAAs.
“Everyone collectively has had to step
up their game,” said freshman Ryan Duncan about Stafford’s
absence. Duncan had three goals over the weekend, including
two in the title game. “Anytime a great player like
Drew is out of the lineup, everyone steps up.”
As for the Huskies, who will likely see their
season end just shy of an NCAA invite, there’s pain
that they expect will be followed by pride.
“They’re going to really
proud of this in a couple of days, but it stings tonight,”
Motzko said after the 5-3 loss in the title game. “If
we can use this as a stepping stone to move our program
forward, this was an unbelievable season.”
4, Minnesota 0
Dowell, R. MacMurchy
Klubertanz, T. Gilbert
Brian Elliott, 60:00, 26 saves, 0 GA
Kellen Briggs, 60:00, 26 saves, 4 GA
WIS 9/18; MN 7/14
Plays: WIS 1-4; MN 0-6
GOPHERS? TRY OH-FERS...
Minnesota fans had reason for concern when
their team took to the ice to face their arch-rivals just
17 hours after an emotional overtime loss. And rightly so,
because there was clearly little gas left in the tanks of
Minnesota throughout its match against Wisconsin.
“The reality of the game today was what
happened last night,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia
after his team looked lifeless in a 4-0 loss. “To
lose like we did last night, it’s human nature to
have trouble getting up the next day. I saw a lot of blank
stares on our bench today.”
On the other, better-rested bench, there was
revenge on the minds of the Badgers, who saw the MacNaughton
Cup slip from their grasp late in the regular season –
a transfer of power was aided when Minnesota came to Madison
in late January and won twice. Wisconsin won twice in Minneapolis
in early December, meaning that Saturday was the rubber
game between the two schools.
“We talked a lot about redemption being
a great motivator,” Badgers coach Mike Eaves said.
“Nobody was looking at this as just a third-place
game. There was a lot of pride on the line.”
Wisconsin started fast, scoring in the opening
four minutes of a game for the 11th time this season. By
the time the final horn sounded, Brian Elliott had made
26 saves for his third shutout in the Badgers’ last
six games and his school-record ninth shutout of his career.
Asked if three blankings in six games meant he was back
to form from the injury that sidelined him for a month,
he didn’t have an answer.
“I don’t even know what back is,”
he said. “You can’t describe your play before
and after an injury, but I have confidence in my teammates
that we can bring that kind of effort every night and win
four more games.”
Three Stars of the Weekend
Ryan Duncan, North Dakota.
On a team filled with great freshmen, this one took
a significant part of the scoring burden upon his
shoulders, scoring one-third of NoDak’s goals
in the tournament.
Brock Hooton, St. Cloud State.
He entered the tournament with just three
goals for the season and more than doubled that number
in St. Paul, with one on Thursday, two on Friday and
one more on Saturday.
Jordan Parise, North Dakota
When the traffic got heavy in front of the
Sioux net, which was often this weekend, the junior
was up to the task and takes 22 wins into the NCAA
SEEN AND HEARD AT THE X
• As an extra incentive to get more
fans at the normally sparsely attended third-place game,
WCHA officials had 5,000 color posters distributed to fans
entering the rink. The posters features team photos from
the five participating schools, with one notable faux
pas. The team photo of the Fighting Sioux was labeled
as being from “North Dakota State University.”
• Paul Allan, the longtime sports information
director at Minnesota State Mankato, moderates the post-game
press conferences at the Final Five. Between games on Saturday
afternoon, one reporter joked that Allan would no longer
be able to use the slogan “Backes to the Future”
in Mavericks promotional materials. Allan’s reply:
“No, but now we’ve got ‘Morin Enough.’”
After Travis Morin led the Mavericks with 20 goals and 22
assists this season, that slogan might indeed sell a few
tickets over the summer.
• After his team’s loss, Don Lucia
talked about how familiar his team is with Ralph Engelstad
Arena and how comfortable they’d be going to Grand
Forks for a regional. Mike Eaves feels the same way about
the Resch Center in Green Bay even if it’s not a regular
stop on WCHA tours. “The kids are familiar with Green
Bay,” he said. “We’ve got a bunch of kids
who have played there, we’ll have our fans there and
we played Michigan Tech there a few years ago, so we’ll
• Attendance records fell by the wayside
again on Saturday. The Saturday afternoon crowd of 16,164
set a new standard for the tournament’s third place
game, while Saturday evening’s sellout crowd of 19,282
gave the tournament a total attendance of 87,579, which
was 5,000 more than the old mark, set in 2004.
• Members of the 1972 U.S. Olympic team
with connections to WCHA schools were honored before the
game, with team captain and former Minnesota Duluth star
Keith “Huffer” Christiansen dropping the ceremonial
first puck. The team, coached by ex-Gopher Murray Williamson,
won a silver medal in Sapporo, Japan.
• Minnesota, which won the Final Five
in 2003 and 2004, has now lost four consecutive Final Five
games. The Gophers lost to Colorado College and North Dakota
last year, and were beaten by St. Cloud State and Wisconsin
• St. Cloud State was just the third
team to win the Final Five play-in game to advance to the
tournament’s championship. Northern Michigan did it
in 1993, losing to Minnesota in the title game. And Michigan
Tech advanced to the title game in 1996 in Milwaukee, with
Minnesota winning that one, too.
• The bigger offensive zones on NHL
ice sheets this season might have contributed to the additional
offense in this year’s tournament. In the 2005 Final
Five, there were 18 goals scored in all five games. This
year there were 40, including 15 in one game.
• As if the premature announcement of
Minnesota playing in the title game wasn’t bad enough,
t-shirts and hats emblazoned with “North Dakota, 2006
WCHA Final Five Champions” were shown on the arena’s
video screens with more than five minutes to play in a close
Brian Elliott said that NCAA seedings never
crossed his mind until the final horn blew on Saturday,
giving him his sixth shutout of the season.
“I didn’t think about what a win
would do until after the game,” he said. “But
it would be awesome if we were the no. 1 seed.”
It looks likely that Wisconsin will be #1
overall and need to bring only one set of sweaters (the
white ones) to Green Bay, while Minnesota will follow the
Fighting Sioux bus back to Grand Forks where both teams
will play in the regional there.
Then there's Denver. The two-time defending
national champions appear to be on the outside looking in
despite finishing in a second-place tie in the WCHA standings,
hamstrung by a subpar record against non-conference opponents
and Minnesota Duluth knocking the Pioneers out of the league
playoffs prematurely last week. Doesn't say much about the
weight a strong conference showing carries in the selection
committee's eyes, does it?