Same Old Story: Potulny Lights Up St. Paul
North Dakota 4
Guyer, C. Harrington
Parise, A. Schneider
Fuher, B. Bochenski
Harrington, M. Koalska
Parise, M. Smaby
Kellen Briggs, 60:00, 35 saves, 4 GA
Jake Brandt, 57:36, 32 saves, 5GA
MN 10/20; ND 9/18
Plays: MN 1-4; ND 1-5
Kellen Briggs, Minnesota (MVP)
D: Keith Ballard, Minnesota
D: Matt Jones, North Dakota
F: Brandon Bochenski, North Dakota
F: Danny Irmen, Minnesota
F: Zach Parise, North Dakota
Minn. – Stop us if you've heard this one before.
With a huge
crowd of Minnesota partisans on hand at the Xcel Energy Center,
Grant Potulny scores the
winning goal and the Gophers skate off with a trophy. Save for
the fact that Jesse Ventura's not the governor of Minnesota anymore,
it's like 2002 all over again.
game-winner on Saturday won't be featured on many "prettiest
goals" highlight films. This time he came from behind the
net and poked the puck
"wraparound style" into a tiny gap between the post
and North Dakota goalie Jake Brandt's left skate. But
it was just as effective as his overtime tally that won the NCAA
title for Minnesota in St. Paul two years ago.
has got to be number two," said Potulny, when asked about
his favorite moments on the Xcel ice sheet. "Part of it is
being at home in front of these fans, but the smaller rink also
helps my game."
their 5-4 victory over the Sioux on Saturday, Minnesota has the
momentum and should get a top seed in the suddenly-realistic quest
for a NCAA
the trophy and the banner his efforts earned on Saturday were
less important than getting one last win in his adopted home state.
four years have been such a ride that it would've been tough to
go out in my last game in Minnesota with a loss," he said.
"Among the seniors,
(Jon) Waibel, (Troy) Riddle and I all scored tonight, so for the
seniors, it definitely meant a lot to win the last time we put
on these jerseys in Minnesota."
And for a
kid who grew up in Grand Forks watching a certain team in green
and white, getting that last "home" win versus the Fighting
Sioux was an especially sweet icing on the WCHA cake.
always a little special for me against these guys," he said.
"I watched them so much growing up, and a lot of their players
are from Grand Forks, so
they grew up three doors down from me, and I've played with and
against them since I learned to skate."
Alaska Anchorage 2
Arcand-Kootenay, K. Reiter
Peluso, J. Lessard
Geisler, M. Peluso
Hammond, S. Czech
Smith, J. Johnson
Kevin Reiter, 60:00, 36 saves, 4 GA
Josh Johnson, 60:00, 25 saves, 2 GA
AA 3/6; MD 4/8
Plays: AA 0-4; MD 2-3
BAY BY ST. LOUIS BAY
period of the Final Five third place game on Saturday, Minnesota
Duluth was outshooting Alaska
Anchorage by a huge margin, but was trailing 1-0 and lacking for
scoring punch. Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin couldn't help but
glance into the crowd at the Xcel Energy Center where once and
(hopefully) future Bulldog stars Tim Hambly, Tyler Brosz and Tim
Stalpeton were sitting during the game, all nursing
we had 100 points sitting in the stands," said Sandelin.
"That's a pretty big blow."
better for the Bulldogs in the second period, and then things
got much worse. Three minutes after scoring his nation-leading
28th goal to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead, WCHA player of the
year Junior Lessard took a clean check from the Seawolves' Brandon
Segal along the end boards behind the Anchorage net and twisted
something in his left leg. Lessard collapsed face first on the
ice, tried to lift
himself, then collapsed again. He was helped off the ice and into
the dressing room.
a good sight," said Sandelin. "It left a pretty big
pit in my stomach watching him come off the ice."
walking with a limp in street clothes in the dressing room afterward
it looked not as serious, and hopefully that will be the case,"
said Sandelin. "In any case, it's a sad thing. We'll just
have to evaluate his status when we get home."
AND HEARD AT THE X
One of the prettier goals of the tournament was the second one
scored by Evan Schwabe in the Bulldogs' 7-4 loss to Minnesota
on Friday. Picking up a loose puck at the blue line, Schwabe came
in alone on Gophers goalie Kellen Briggs, deked a high shot, then
slipped a low shot past Briggs on the stick side.
move even faked me out," said Alaska Anchorage defenseman
Spence Gilchrist, "and I was sitting up in section 210."
goal that had people buzzing was Alaska Anchorage's first tally
versus UMD on Saturday. Battling Bulldog defenseman Ryan Swanson
into the offensive zone, Seawolves forward Curtis Glencross looked
like he was going to drive to the net. Instead, Glencross pulled
up just inside the blue line and unleased a rising slap shot that
was denting the back of the net before Bulldogs goalie Josh Johnson
up, stopped, and let a rocket go," said Seawolves coach John
Hill. "All his goals are nothing but fury and power. But
I'm surprised he didn't blow it five feet over the net, because
that's what he usually does."
faced the WCHA's top two regular season teams on successive days
this weekend, Hill said he likes North Dakota's chances to get
to the Frozen
Four, and has some creeping doubts about whether Minnesota Duluth
is realistically bound for Boston.
Dakota is stronger physically, but Duluth has more depth with
their forward lines," Hill said. "My concern about Duluth
is that (goalie Issac Reichmuth) is is probably not on top of
his game right now. But if they're healthy and Reichmuth can get
back to where he was, they could go far too."
Sports North analyst and former Gopher coach Doug Woog, lists
each team's "Keys To The Game" on screen before the
first puck is dropped. On Saturday, one of Woog's keys for the
Gophers was to "Take Away Jordan Parise's Eyes." While
generating traffic in front of the opponent's goalie is always
a good idea, Jordan Parise spent the title game on the Sioux bench,
so taking away his eyes would've involved a lot of standing around
near the red line.
showed that even in his team's emotional last game of the season,
he wasn't afraid to remind his players who's boss. Seawolves'
Martin Stuchlik, a junior, took two second-period penalties versus
Minnesota Duluth, and the Bulldogs scored on both power plays.
Stuchlik watched the last 20 minutes of his team's season from
the tunnel behind the team bench, wearing a sharp-looking suit
reached his quota of penalties for the day," said Hill afterwards.
the WCHA's all-time biggest crowd (19,306) on hand Saturday night
and an electric atmosphere throughout the title game, Lucia said
audiences in Boston will have work to do to match the Xcel for
a great tournament," Lucia exclaimed. "These fans made
it fun, and they certainly got their money's worth. I've been
in four Frozen Fours now, and those don't get any better than
fans in the aptly-nicknamed State of Hockey for snapping up tickets
this weekend and setting attendance records during four of the
five games. Sure, 19,000-plus in the building for each of the
Gophers games was to be expected, but 12,000 for the play-in game
and 14,000 for the third place game (with nothing on the line
for either team) was above and beyond the call of duty. The multitudes
of butts in seats this weekend made for a great atmosphere for
all five games.
Alaska Anchorage, for showing class, grit and sportsmanship in
the school's first Final Five appearance. The Seawolves won one
and played well in the other two, and would be a welcome addition
tournament in the future. In summing up UAA's first trip to St.
Paul, we're reminded of Time magazine's assessment of
Minnesota Twins fans in 1987, who managed to celebrate a World
Series title without burning down the city. "When Minnesota
finally won something, they knew how," wrote Time.
Ditto for the Seawolves. Come back anytime, and bring your band.
WCHA officials for inviting Dan Brooks, son of the late Herb Brooks,
to do the ceremonial puck drop before the title game. Dan's dad
coached the Gophers vs. the Sioux in one of the more memorable
games in NCAA history, as Minnesota beat North Dakota 4-3 in Detroit
for the 1979 national championship. It was nice to have the younger
Brooks, a former Denver Pioneer himself, on hand.
what is supposed to be a neutral site, the merchandise stands
were selling several items with the WCHA logo, along with a few
items bearing the Gopher "M." No other school's team-specific
merchandise was available in the building. So much for neutrality.
the makers of composite hockey sticks. These things have got to
be the greatest money-making scam in sporting goods history. They
cost $180 each and, from what we can tell, they last for about
two shifts. The Xcel ice was littered with three of them just
in the first 10 minutes alone on Saturday night. Gophers freshman
Danny Irmen reportedly broke six of them in one game
this season. Here's a deliciously retro idea for stick materials:
wood. It literally grows on trees. Try it sometime.
the "nameless committee" that picks the WCHA's all-tournament
team. No disrespect to Minnesota goalie Kellen Briggs, who backstopped
the Gophers to a pair of wins. He's one of the best rookie goalies
in college hockey, and broke Minnesota's school record for most
wins by a freshman goalie (24) on Saturday. But the fact is that
he gave up eight goals in two games, and was hardly deserving
of making the all-tourney team (Alaska Anchorage goalie Chris
King had more than 80 saves in his two games).
was named the tournament's MVP, most with an unbiased eye were
baffled by the choice. Even Briggs himself found the choice strange.
"I don't know if my parents and family were voting on that
or what," joked Briggs
after the game. "A lot of other guys on my team deserved
it more than me."
to WCHA officials, the team is picked by an unnamed group, and
not even league p.r. director Doug Spencer knows exactly who is
doing the voting. "We've never had any controversy before,"
said Spencer. "I guess you could argue with the choice, but
they saw Briggs win two good games this year." Briggs was
an interesting choice, to say the least.
is likely to take their No. 1 national ranking to Colorado Springs
next weekend as the top seed in the West Regional. Despite bowing
out of the WCHA Playoffs in the opening round, Denver will surely
join the Sioux there, and will be the de facto home team.
The only question
on Saturday was about ice sheet size. Colorado College's rink
has a big ice sheet, which the Gophers are used to and the Sioux
are not. But it's realistic that North Dakota's road to Boston
will feature Olympic-sized ice, while the Gophers (whose home
rink is 100x200) will play on the NHL-size sheet in Grand Rapids.
size ice doesn't bother us," said Dean Blais. "We've
played very well there and we skate and move the puck as well
as anyone, so we'll be fine."
His best goal-scorer
offered a little different opinion.
like to play on a smaller rink because of our big defensemen,
but at this time of year, you've got to be ready to play anywhere,"
said Brandon Bochenski.
should be the top seed in the Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids,
while Minnesota Duluth is widely expected to get a second or third
Albany or Grand Rapids.
biggest question I have is are they going to keep us and Duluth
in the same regional," said Lucia, who is 1-4 versus the
Bulldogs this season and would probably not be too pumped to see
them again before Boston.
unforseen, Wisconsin will be the WCHA's fifth team in the tournament,
and will likely head to Albany or Manchester as a third seed.