Column: North Star Cup lets us reminisce about WCHA, ya feel me?

by Samuel Gordon

This weekend, the North Star College Cup reunited Minnesota’s Division I hockey teams after last season’s conference departures.

The inaugural tournament was the perfect way to pay homage to the rivalries forged in the WCHA. And as many expected, No. 1 Minnesota claimed the wooden trophy and flexed its top-team-in-the-state muscles Saturday against rival Minnesota-Duluth.

The one flaw in an otherwise perfect weekend of Minnesota hockey? The shootout that decided the championship.

Even with the minor letdown at the end, fans from across Minnesota flocked to the Xcel Energy Center to take in the start of a new tradition for the state of hockey.

“It’s only going to grow and get better,” Gophers head coach Don Lucia said. “I think you saw the in-state pride, which was good.”

That’s what an event like this is all about. There were no points on the line in these games — just state supremacy.

And that brought the best out of each team.

Gophers forward Seth Ambroz said the talent of each Minnesota team was on display this weekend.

The only issue with the first tournament was the shootout that ended it.

Ambroz flipped a backhand past Bulldogs goaltender Aaron Crandall to win the shootout.

His teammates piled out of the bench — half met Ambroz at the far boards and the others surrounded goaltender Adam Wilcox in the crease — after the after the shot went in.

It was a cool moment for the Gophers and for fans in the building. But it was an anticlimactic way to wrap up the weekend.

We had these gladiators battling for 65 minutes, and the championship was decided with a mini-game that has nothing to do with the essential, poetic execution required in 5-on-5 hockey.

“It’s always tough to lose shootouts. It would have been nice to keep playing,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. “Nobody knew what the format was going to be until the announcer announced it.”

That’s the rhetoric one might expect to hear from a coach on the losing end of a shootout, but Mr. Sandelin has a point.

Imagine overtime basketball games being decided with a 3-point contest, or football games ending with a punt, pass and kick.

While every tournament needs a winner, and there’s some validity in the argument that a shootout is the most efficient way to end a tie, this tournament deserved more than that.

Let the boys play until someone scores the old-fashioned way.

It would only improve an event that already made a very favorable first impression.

Ya feel me?