March 22, 2008
WCHA Finals
Gophers Lose, But Advance Through the Front Door

By Jess Myers

Denver 2, Minnesota 1
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
No scoring

Second Period

1-MN Ryan Flynn (4) EV
5:39 S. Bickel, C. Fairchild
1-DU Tyler Bozak (18) EV
9:10 R. Rakhshani
2-DU Tom May (8) EV
19:34 A. Maiani, J. Martin
Third Period
No scoring
MN: Alex Kangas, 58:37, 32 saves, 2 GA
DU: Peter Mannino, 59:52, 34 saves, 1 GA
Penalties: MN 7/14; DU 5/10
Power Plays: MN 0-3; DU 0-5
Attendance: 17,907
All-Tournament Team
MVP: Alex Kangas, G, Minnesota
G: Peter Mannino, Denver
D: Chris Butler, Denver
D: Taylor Chorney, North Dakota
F: Mike Hoeffel, Minnesota
F: Tom May, Denver
F: T.J. Oshie, North Dakota

ST. PAUL, Minn. — In the high-expectations world of Minnesota hockey, this season looked like it was a disaster as recently as a few weeks ago. Saturday, the Gophers watched another team hoist the WCHA’s playoff championship trophy, but with Minnesota unexpectedly heading to the NCAA tournament, there were no heads hanging in the locker room.

“I give our guys a lot of credit to come out in the third period and play as hard as we did,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said after his team’s 2-1 loss to Denver. “When the weekend began, if you would’ve told me we’d be pulling our goalie in the championship game to try to tie it because we’re down by one, I don’t know if I would’ve believed it.”

Hardly anyone else would’ve believed it either. The Gophers were fair to poor for much of January and February, and countless fans had written it off as a lost season.

Then the rally began.

“One of the things this team loves to do is prove people wrong,” said Minnesota senior Ben Gordon after his final college game in his home state. “We didn’t have a whole lot of believers but we did have 23 guys who believe in that locker room.”

The Gophers hung tough, gutting out an improbable playoff series win on the road at Minnesota State, getting good bounces two nights in a row to get to the Final Five title game, and outshooting Denver 14-5 in a frantic third period Saturday. The end result is their eighth consecutive trip to the national tournament.

“For us it’s not a good season if we’re not in the NCAA tournament, and we kept talking about what the expectations were,” Lucia said. “We want to be in the Final Five. We want to be in the NCAA tournament, and we certainly were in danger of not getting there.”

Perhaps that was the greatest source of pride for Minnesota Saturday, after rookie goalie Alex Kangas was named the tournament’s MVP — the trip to the NCAAs was a result not of scoreboard-watching and luck, but of hard work on-ice.

“We didn’t have to back in because of what somebody else did,” Lucia said. “We earned our way in.”


North Dakota 4,
Colorado College 2
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
1-CC Chad Rau (28) EV
7:56 M. Testwuide
1-NDK T.J. Oshie (18) PP
19:20 T. Chorney, C. VandeVelde

Second Period

2-NDK Chris VandeVelde (15) PP
5:01 T. Chorney, T.J. Oshie
3-NDK Chay Genoway (7) PP
10:27 J. Marto, B. Malone
2-CC Jimmy Kilpatrick (15) PP
16:36 B. Connelly, R. Lowery
Third Period
4-NDK Darcy Zajac (3) EV
10:02 K. Radke, J. Marto
NDK: J-P Lamoureux, 60:00, 33 saves, 2 GA
CC: Richard Bachman, 58:22, 31 saves, 4 GA
Penalties: NDK 5/10; CC 8/16
Power Plays: NDK 3-7; CC 1-4
Attendance: 15,981

“Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes. I’m afraid it’s time for goodbye again.” — Billy Joel, "Say Goodbye to Hollywood"

The wave of underclassman signings by pro hockey teams usually starts as soon as college teams are eliminated from the playoffs, but at Michigan Tech this season it practically started two weeks earlier. Prior to the Huskies’ final home series of the season, junior goalie Michael-Lee Teslak put a note on his MySpace page saying he’s be playing his final college home games that weekend.

Indeed, not long after the Huskies’ team bus returned from their three-game playoff loss at North Dakota, Teslak was a contract-bearing professional, bound for the Philadelphia Flyers’ minor league system.

On Thursday, it was widely rumored that Minnesota Duluth junior defenseman Jason Garrison would be signing with the Florida Panthers, and players like Wisconsin freshman Kyle Turris and North Dakota junior T.J. Oshie are expected to end their college hockey careers in the coming days and weeks.

While some coaches embrace the attention to their players and programs, others admit that uncertain futures create a distraction.

“Michael-Lee had a pretty good idea that he was going to sign when this season was done,” Michigan Tech coach Jamie Russell said. “Every game we played this year there were two or three NHL guys there that would talk to him after the game. I thought he did a terrific job of putting that aside and playing hockey.

“He had scouts that were text messaging him eight times a day and he did a good job of putting that in its place. But to an extent, there’s no question that it’s a distraction.”

North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol has a slightly different take, and sees himself in a cooperative role in preparing student-athletes for a lucrative career shooting pucks for a living.

“Raiding is one way to look at it, but I really don’t look at it that way,” Hakstol said. “I know we have a great relationship with the NHL. Part of our role is to help in the development of these players. That’s why players want to come to the WCHA and come to the University of North Dakota — that’s part of the reason. They want to come to get an education, to develop as a person, and to develop as a hockey player to have a chance to play at the NHL level.”

Still, others see potential trouble when a young player leaves for a pro career before they may be ready for the responsibility that comes with it. When asked about Turris’ future in Madison, Badgers coach Mike Eaves acknowledged that the WCHA all-rookie team pick is coveted by the Phoenix Coyotes, who selected him with the third overall pick in last summer’s NHL Draft.

“We hope that we get some good news on Sunday, but if we don’t then a can of worms could be opening up and we’ll have to deal with some things in our neck of the woods,” Eaves said. “Kyle is a terrific young man and a wonderful talent. In some form or fashion I feel bad for him because these young kids are being asked to grow up awfully fast. There’s some measure of loss of innocence in that.”


It’s a tradition among the league’s on-ice officials that if you fall and hit the ice for any reason, you buy a round for your colleagues that night. At the Final Five, the rounds are spendy since all of the WCHA’s men in stripes are in attendance.

So when Don Adam hit the ice after colliding with the Goldy Gopher mascot prior to the Friday night semifinal, he was assured he’d have to buy a round, but was given a possible reprieve. When the refs gathered in a hospitality suite hosted by WCHA supervisor of officials Greg Shepherd late Friday, they turned on ESPN and told Adam that if his great fall made SportsCenter, they’d all buy him a beer instead.

Sadly for Adam, the Worldwide Leader did not show his collision with the world’s largest rodent, and he was on the hook for a round after all.


Denver’s 1-0 win over Minnesota Duluth in the opening round of the playoffs marked not only the end of the Bulldogs’ season, but the end of an era in Bulldog hockey. After 29 years of supplying sticks, tape, and pads, among myriad other duties, Bulldog equipment manager Rick Menz is retiring.

“What a tremendous asset to our program over a long period of years,” said UMD athletic director Bob Nielson. “He’s someone who symbolizes the tradition in our hockey program. We’ll miss him. He’s a guy you can’t replace.”

Neilson recalled walking off the ice after the Bulldogs’ 3-1 win over Minnesota at the 2004 NCAA regional in Grand Rapids, Mich., and seeing tears of joy in Menz’ eyes as UMD had clinched a trip to the Frozen Four.

“I put my hand on his shoulder and said, ‘Rick, our skates were sharper tonight,’” Nielson recalled.


• Scott Owens said the Tigers’ biggest problem in their semifinal loss to Minnesota was giving up the tying goal just 59 seconds after they’d scored to take a 1-0 lead early in the second period. So it was a break for the Tigers on Saturday afternoon when just 20 seconds after Chad Rau’s breakaway goal, the Sioux hit the crossbar on a scramble in front of Richard Bachman.

INCH's Three Stars of the Night

3. Taylor Chorney, North Dakota
For the second day in a row, the most impressive Sioux defenseman gets the nod for his long-range blasts that set up two of NoDak’s four goals in the third-place game.

2. Minnesota’s conditioning staff
We kept waiting for the Gophers to wilt as they played their sixth game in nine days. They never did, and kept firing away, outshooting Denver in the final, but falling by a goal.

1. Peter Mannino, Denver
The all-tournament goalie was the difference in the title game’s third period, stopping all 14 Minnesota shots to earn his second Broadmoor Trophy. “He’s been here before, and there’s no question that in his last shot at it, he was going to give it his best,” said Denver coach George Gwozdecky.

• Tyler Bozak’s improbable goal on Saturday (his centering pass from behind the goal line hit a Minnesota skate and bounced in) was his 18th of the season, and his seventh versus the Gophers. After his team scored one goal against the Pioneers for the fifth consecutive game, Minnesota coach Don Lucia noted a few patterns.

“The way it’s been with Denver, you knew two things. You knew we were going to score one on Mannino and you knew Bozak was going to score on us, even though it was behind the goal line,” Lucia said. “If he could play us 30 times a year, he’d probably be signing a pro contract right now, and he should be giving us part of the bonus.”

• Congrats to the UMD women’s team for its 4-0 win over Wisconsin on Saturday at the DECC, giving coach Shannon Miller four NCAA titles in her nine seasons in Duluth. Kudos are due as well to the WCHA women’s teams as a whole, who are now eight-for-eight in NCAA title games (Wisconsin and Minnesota have each won the title twice). On Friday, WCHA women’s commissioner Sara Martin joked that she might retire at season’s end so she could say she walked away with a perfect record.

• The third-place game featured homage to the decades in which New York Rangers fans had to endure chants of “1940” from opposing fans — a reminder of the Rangers’ Stanley Cup championship that year. It took them 54 years to win another one. In the crowd on Saturday afternoon, a North Dakota fan had a hand-lettered sign that read “1957” to remind Tiger fans of the last time their team stood alone atop the college hockey world.


Great shot on the video screen Saturday afternoon of a very young fan (we’re guessing two years old or less) wearing a Sioux sweater and chewing away using an official WCHA-logo puck as a teething toy. They start those hockey fans young in the Red River Valley.

The Saturday night crowd of 17,907 pushed total tournament attendance past the 86,000 mark for the third year in a row. More importantly, the big crowds for the five games in St. Paul meant total WCHA attendance for all games of over 1.5 million for the sixth consecutive year.

On the topic of Sioux fans, their passion for their team shows not only in the form of sometimes-bewildering feedback e-mails, but in the number of tickets purchased. There were sections of the X so filled with green-clad partisans both Friday and Saturday afternoons that it looked like St. Patrick’s Day festivities had been extended. Much like Wisconsin fans a generation ago, the Sioux fans travel well.

We’ve come a long way since the days when folks could smoke inside arenas, but a by-product of Minnesota’s Clean Indoor Air Act is the fact that seemingly every rink has six guys puffing on smoky treats just outside the doors. Running the hazy, smelly gauntlet is getting old.

Those of us who type for a living have had it with having to look up and spell out the likes of Andreas Vlassopoulos, Jean-Philippe Lamoureux, Tyler Rugesegger and Rhett Rakhshani repeatedly. Give us more of Tom May, Zach Jones, Chad Rau and Mike Howe any day.


Despite a pair of losses in St. Paul, Colorado College is the only WCHA team that knows for sure where it will be playing next weekend, and the Tigers relish the reality that one of the quartet of roads to the Frozen Four runs through their home rink.

“We’re 18-2 at home and part of it is because we’re pretty good on the big sheet,” said Tigers coach Scott Owens after his team’s 4-2 loss to North Dakota on Saturday. “You can see how we got bounced around on the small sheet. Other teams have to come to our building and it is an honest 200 by 100, and it’s at altitude, and it’s a tough place to play.”

As for the other five (possibly six) WCHA teams headed to the NCAA tourney, where and who they’ll play is uncertain. And to some, it hardly matters.

“I haven’t been around for all that long, but the one thing I think I have learned is wait until they tell you where you’re going and be excited about getting there,” Sioux coach Dave Hakstol said. “For me personally it’s a really exciting time to be preparing for a hockey game, so wherever they send us, we’re very happy and proud to be involved in it. We need to be prepared to take advantage of it, no matter where it is.”