Woog savors moment in light of

by Michael Rand

His voice cracked and the tears began to flow despite his best efforts to hold them back. As Gophers hockey coach Doug Woog addressed the Mariucci Arena crowd late Saturday night, memories of an emotionally difficult season came back to him in a rush.
His team had just claimed a WCHA co-championship, a goal that once seemed unattainable because of inconsistent play throughout the season. He had also fought through a two-game suspension and an on-going NCAA investigation into the program he has run since 1985.
In a season of extreme highs and extreme lows, Woog was at the pinnacle.
“This is not the kind of season I’m accustomed to having,” Woog said. “After all this, to have players say, ‘I’m happy for you coach,’ that’s important. When you know guys are fighting with you instead of against you, the emotion is stronger.”
Crowley shares scoring title
The Gophers weren’t the only ones making a late-season run at a title. Junior defenseman Mike Crowley, who had five assists against Wisconsin this weekend, finished in a tie for the WCHA scoring title at 42 points with Colorado College’s Brian Swanson.
Crowley (five goals, 37 assists) became the first defenseman to lead the league in scoring since 1962-63, when fellow Gopher Lou Nanne accomplished the feat.
The Bloomington Jefferson graduate, who has 46 points overall, notched 28 points in his final 18 WCHA games this season.
Spehar top freshman scorer
Duluth native Dave Spehar was the top scorer among WCHA freshman, totalling 30 points on 15 goals and 15 assists.
Spehar led the Gophers with five game-winning goals and was second on the team in power play goals with nine.
Kraft honored
Gophers forward Ryan Kraft, who scored five goals and added an assist against Wisconsin, was named WCHA Offensive Player of the Week for the third time this season.
The junior leads Minnesota with 24 goals this season.
Making life easy
Assistant men’s athletics director Pat Forciea has often been called a marketing whiz because of his crafty schemes to promote Gophers sports. But even Forciea had to admit his job got a lot easier this weekend.
It’s not hard to sell a Big Ten basketball champion and a WCHA hockey co-champ to the public.
“This was a two-win day,” Forciea said on Saturday, the day both teams celebrated titles. “To have two champi
onships in the same day is special.”
Forciea helped orchestrate the basketball seniors’ visit to the hockey team’s locker room before Saturday night’s game.
He and men’s athletics director Mark Dienhart were on hand for the championship presentations in each sport.
“For all the people who support both teams, this is really gratifying,” Dienhart said. “It calls more attention to Minnesota.”
What might not have been
In all the excitement around the Gophers gaining a share of the WCHA title with a 7-3 win over Wisconsin on Saturday, it’s easy to forget the tense moments the team faced a night earlier.
Despite outshooting the Badgers 62-23 on Friday, the Gophers barely escaped with a 4-3 win.
With 11 minutes remaining in the game, Wisconsin’s Joe Bianchi’s bad-angle shot appeared to trickle past the goal-line, but the officials saw it differently. Then, with 20 seconds left in the game, Bianchi’s shot from point-blank range rolled just wide of the net.
“What can I say? I missed,” Bianchi said. “If I make the play, we tie the game.”
If the game would have ended in a tie, Minnesota’s title hopes would have ended.
Playoffs become crucial
The Gophers sweep of Wisconsin and UND’s losses at Denver didn’t just give Minnesota a share of the WCHA title — it vaulted the team past North Dakota in the latest Pairwise Rankings.
Minnesota is fourth and UND is fifth in the rankings system, which is used by the NCAA to determine seeding for the national tournament.
Considering the top two teams in the NCAA West and East regional tournament receive byes in the first round, the battle to be among the nation’s top four is very important.
That makes the WCHA playoffs pivotal for Minnesota and North Dakota. Assuming one of those teams wins the league tournament, that team will likely get a No. 2 seed in either the West or East regional, while the team that loses will get a No. 3 seed.
End quote
Gophers senior Dan Hendrickson, on his final regular season game at Minnesota: “There’s not one better way to end my senior year than to beat the Badgers. That’s why you come to Minnesota; you come to beat the Badgers. And to win a championship is a dream come true.”