March 17, 2006
WCHA Semifinals
Deja Vu All Over Again
St. Cloud-Minnesota epic reminiscent of '91 NCAA title game

By Jess Myers

St. Cloud State 8,
Minnesota 7
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
1-MN Ben Gordon (12) EV
9:36 B. Wheeler, C. Harrington
1-SC Matt Hartman (9) EV
10:57 M. Stephenson
2-MN Alex Goligoski (10) EV
13:33 unassisted
2-SC Andrew Gordon (20) PP
15:02 J. Fletcher, B. Hooton

Second Period

3-SC Andrew Gordon (21) EV
0:58 J. Jensen, D. Carlisle
4-SC Casey Borer (3) EV
3:50 A. Gordon, J. Jensen
5-SC Grant Clafton (2) EV
5:54 T.J. McElroy, B. Hooton
3-MN Ryan Potulny PP
9:43 P. Kessel, C. Harrington
6-SC Brock Hooton (5) EV
11:40 unassisted
4-MN Ryan Potulny (36) EV
14:08 D. Irmen, C. Harrington
5-MN Ryan Potulny (37) PP
19:56 P. Kessel, C. Harrington
Third Period
7-SC Brock Hooton (6) EV
16:21 unassisted
6-MN Danny Irmen (16) EV
17:59 R. Stoa, R. Potulny
7-MN Ryan Potulny (38) EA
19:45 D. Irmen, P. Kessel
8-SC Matt Hartman (10) EV
9:14 N. Raduns, D. Kronick
SC: Bobby Goepfert, 69:14, 44 saves, 7 GA
MN: Kellen Briggs, 25:54, 17 saves, 5 GA; Jeff Frazee, 42:12, 13 saves, 3 GA
Penalties: SC 4/8; MN 3/6
Power Plays: SC 1-3; MN 2-4
Attendance: 19,353

ST. PAUL, Minn. – About two minutes after Ryan Potulny’s fourth goal of the night sent Minnesota and St. Cloud State to overtime tied at 7-7, Alaska Anchorage coach Dave Shyiak was seen in the arena pressbox sporting a huge grin.

“What does this remind you of?” he asked rhetorically. “It’s 1991 all over again.”

Shyiak was a senior on the 1991 Northern Michigan team, which won the NCAA title at the St. Paul Civic Center (which was torn down in 1998 to make way for the Xcel Energy Center). On that night, the Wildcats defeated Boston University 8-7 in three overtimes.

Nearly 15 years later on the same site, we got a near-repeat of the 8-7 thriller.

Minnesota, outshot 16-8 in the opening period, trailed 5-2 at one point in the second period. With barely two minutes to play, the Gophers trailed by two goals. But by outshooting the Huskies 20-7 in the third and by getting Potulny open with 14.6 seconds to play, they forced overtime.

“When they went ahead by two goals at the end of the game, I was so mad at our guys I didn’t even want to pull the goalie,” said Gophers coach Don Lucia. “I figured they got what they deserved. Then they made it a one-goal game and I had to.”

In the extra session, the Huskies were outshot 6-2, but fourth-line wing Matt Hartman ended it and sent the Huskies to the Final Five title game for the third time in program history.

“That’s a WCHA game from the ‘70s, I think,” joked Huskies coach Bob Motzko afterward. He said after Potulny scored with 0.4 seconds left in the second to make it 6-5 Huskies, he saw goalie Bobby Goepfert off his game for the first time all year.

“Bobby was a little rattled after the second period,” Motzko said, admitting Potulny was in his head. “He was shaking almost. I’m not a goalie guy, but I went and told him, ‘This is college hockey.’ He said, ‘No matter what I do, it doesn’t work,’ and I told him, ‘That’s Ryan Potulny. He’s been doing it to other teams all year.’”

So now the Huskies get a chance to play for their season one last time and become the first team to win the Final Five after winning the play-in game. Tired, sure. Worried? Nah, says their coach.

“This is going to be our sixth game in nine days,” Motzko said. “Short rest and turn around and we’ll go again. I think we’re going to be fine.”

North Dakota 4, Wisconsin 3
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
1-WIS Joe Pavelski (20) EV
7:43 K. Klubertanz, A Burish
2-WIS Andy Brandt (1) EV
11:05 J. Dowell, R. MacMurchy
1-NDK Ryan Duncan (12) EV
18:07 K. Radke, J. Toews
2-NDK Rylan Kaip (1) EV
19:02 M. Watkins, C. Porter

Second Period

3-NDK Rastislav Spirko (9) EV
4:10 T.J. Oshie, C. Porter
5-NDK Rylan Kaip (2) EV
18:24 C. Porter
3-WIS Robbie Earl (20) PP
18:59 J. Pavelski, A. Burish
Third Period
No scoring
NDK: Jordan Parise, 60:00, 27 saves, 3 GA
WIS: Brian Elliott, 59:29, 27 saves, 4 GA
Penalties: NDK 5/10; WIS 6/12
Power Plays: NDK 0-5; WIS 1-4
Power Plays: 16,468


Talking to a reporter in the pressbox during North Dakota’s 4-3 win over Wisconsin in the Final Five semifinals, injured Sioux forward Drew Stafford joked that while he’s out of the lineup, he’d left the offensive leadership reins securely in the hands of sophomore Rylan Kaip.

If that was the top secret plan, it worked like a charm for North Dakota as Kaip, playing in his 60th career game, scored his first two collegiate goals on Friday afternoon to propel his team to the Final Five title game.

“I haven’t scored in quite a while, so it felt good to get that monkey off my back,” said Kaip, who played right wing on a line with Andrew Kozek and Matt Watkins. “I think my last (goal) was back when I was playing juniors in Saskatchewan, so it’s been a while.”

Kaip played in 22 games as a rookie, recording four assists an earning a letter. But his first year of college hockey came to a premature end when post-concussion syndrome forced him to be a spectator for the team’s run to the national title game.

“His first year, he didn’t play from December on,” said Sioux coach Dave Hakstol. “That’s almost like missing a full season. But the fact that he’s in the lineup speaks to the support he’s gotten from his teammates.”

With the Sioux trailing 2-1 late in the first, Kaip got open in front of the Badger net and ripped low shot that found a tiny gap between the post and Brian Elliott’s right skate blade to finally see the red light illuminate after one of his shots. Kaip’s second period goal off a feed from Chris Porter put the Sioux up 4-2 and was the game-winner.

“He’s brought a lot of energy to this team and a lot of playmaking,” said Hakstol. “His first one wasn’t exactly a highlight reel goal, but that second one could’ve made some highlights. That’s him. He brings a lot to this team whether he scores or not.”


The first fight song heard at the Xcel Energy Center wasn’t for Minnesota Duluth or St. Cloud State. While those teams warmed up on Thursday night, “Fight Tech Fight” was heard coming from the upper deck. While Michigan Tech hasn’t appeared at a Final Five since 1996, the Husky Pep Band is in St. Paul this weekend as special guests of the WCHA.

The invite stems from last year’s title game in which Denver and Colorado College squared off in a near-full arena that was strangely quiet as neither team had a band in attendance. Anticipating at least one of those teams would make it to St. Paul again this year, WCHA officials offered to pay for 47 members of the Tech band to stand-in for either the Tigers or Pioneers.

When both of those teams were upset in the first round, league officials faced the possibility that bands (six) would out-number teams (five) at the tournament. But as it was spring break at Minnesota Duluth, the Bulldogs didn’t bring a band to St. Paul, leaving the students from Houghton to effectively stand in for another team with a dog mascot.

“We weren’t technically the Bulldogs’ band for that game,” said band director Nick Enz. “We tried to play our normal stuff and be a little more non-partisan.”

Enz noted that for many band members, it’s strange and a little disappointing to play at a hockey game that Tech isn’t involved in, but that all are having fun and are hopeful to see their Huskies back in the Final Five soon.

“The Tech band has such a terrific reputation around the league,” gushed WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod. “I followed them around before a game working the concourses and interacting with the fans.”

Even though fewer than 50 members of the band had their expenses paid by the league, at least 15 more paid their own way to come to St. Paul.

INCH's Three Stars of the Night

3. Rylan Kaip, North Dakota.
Apparently he vowed not to score a goal until there were at least 15,000 on hand to see it. Playing before the biggest crowd of his career, the Sioux sophomore had the game of his career.

2. Bobby Goepfert, St. Cloud State.
Never has a goalie looked so good allowing seven goals in a game. For a tired group of Huskies, he and his 44 saves were literally the last line of defense.

1. Ryan Potulny, Minnesota
Have four goals ever been scored in one game with such a flair for the dramatic? Wow.

Minnesota State Mankato forward David Backes had an interesting trip to the WCHA awards banquet, where he was named a second-teamer. On Wednesday he flew to St. Louis for a physical with officials from the Blues, who hold his rights. While there, the team made an offer he couldn’t, or at least didn’t, refuse and he signed a contract. On Thursday he was back in WCHA country to accept his award from the league before he reports to the Blues’ AHL affiliate in Peoria.

“It was a tough decision and I hated to leave those fans a year early,” he said. “But I apologized to them and I’ll always be a Maverick.”

Mavericks coach Troy Jutting, watching Thursday night’s game from the Xcel Energy Center pressbox, said he was saddened but not surprised by Backes’ early departure and thankful for his contributions to the program.

“I’m just glad I got to coach him for three seasons,” Jutting said. “He meant a lot to our team.”

Aaron Brocklehurst celebrates the goal that ended St. Cloud State's epic 8-7 win over Minnesota. (Photo by Larry Radloff)


• Friday afternoon’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in downtown St. Paul, coupled with the Wisconsin-North Dakota game in the afternoon, created a massive traffic jam around the arena. And with most of the town wearing green, it appeared that Sioux fans out-numbered the Badger faithful by a ratio of about 10-to-1. Although inside the arena, while there were clearly more Sioux fans in attendance, the disparity wasn’t that dramatic.

• It was a day of scoring milestones for Wisconsin. Junior Andy Brandt scored the team’s second goal of the day, and snapped a 76-game scoreless streak. It was just the second goal of his collegiate career. And Joe Pavelski’s goal and assist gave him 50 points for the season, making him the first Badger to break 50 in a campaign since Dany Heatley did it in 2000-01.

• When linesman Tim Swiader tripped and fell to the ice during the third period of the North Dakota-Wisconsin game, applause erupted from the booth in the pressbox where several WCHA officials were watching the game. Apparently, any official who falls during a game has to buy a round of drinks for the others at a post-game watering hole.

• Elliott made 27 saves in the loss to North Dakota. It was the first time this season that he lost a game to a ranked team.

• The tournament’s attendance records continued to fall on Friday. The afternoon session’s crowd of 16,468 eclipsed the mark of 15,022 set in 2004 when North Dakota beat Alaska Anchorage 4-2 in the Friday afternoon game. Friday night’s attendance of 19,353 was an all-time Final Five game record.

• One of the bigger ovations of the night came when former Michigan Tech star goaltender Tony Esposito dropped the ceremonial first puck before the Minnesota-St. Cloud State game. A three-time All American for the Huskies, Esposito played 17 seasons in the NHL and won a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in 1969.

• Whatever inspiration the Huskies needed to play well against Minnesota might have come at the end of the North Dakota-Wisconsin game. Public address announcer Jamie Verbrugge, who normally works the mic at Mariucci Arena, announced that, “with this win, North Dakota advances to the Final Five title game where they will face the Minnesota Golden Gophers.” That’s what we call jumping the gun, although arena officials say Verbrugge read the gaffe off a script, and didn’t embellish the championship game prediction.

Next for Jordan Parise and the Sioux is a date with St. Cloud State. (Photo by Larry Radloff)


The Wisconsin-Minnesota game so many anticipated will be played at 2:30, not 7:30 on Saturday.

All but assured of a NCAA tournament berth, North Dakota will play in the Final Five title game for the seventh time in the past decade on Saturday. The Sioux, who are 2-4 in their previous six title game appearances, are playing with hopes of locking up a no. 2 seed at the Grand Forks regional and getting to wear the home whites in front of their fans in their NCAA opener. St. Cloud State beat North Dakota three times in the regular season, but for the Sioux players, the “where” and “when” matter much more than the “who.”

“We really don’t care who it’s going to be,” said Rastislav Spirko after his team beat Wisconsin. “We came here to win and now we’ve got a little more time to get ready. The preparation starts now.”