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Deep hole in Mariucci ice causes 51-minute delay

After players skated to a stop at the spot, the ice cracked all the way down to the cement.

Friday night’s men’s hockey game between No. 5 Minnesota and No. 1 North Dakota was just warming up when referees stopped the game to cool some ice down.

Less than two minutes after senior Grant Potulny tied the game at one apiece with a power-play goal, a large chunk of ice was jarred loose behind the Sioux net.

The Mariucci Arena crew worked on the ice for 51 minutes – pouring water into the cracks and blowing fire extinguishers to help freeze the spot – before referees allowed play to resume.

During the extended intermission, Minnesota coach Don Lucia kept his team relaxed while he and Sioux coach Dean Blais tried to decide whether to resume or postpone the game until Sunday.

“It was such a big chunk, I’ve never seen that before,” Lucia said. “We didn’t want to jeopardize a guy going in there and tearing a knee up or something.”

When the game resumed, the teams played out the remaining 36 seconds of the first period, then after a brief intermission, continued right into the second period.

“I don’t think the delay hurt or helped either team,” Blais said.

A University official said the problem happened after players skated to a stop in that particular spot, and at that angle the ice cracked all the way down to the cement. There were no problems with the rink’s cooling system.

Potulny leaves game

Minnesota senior captain Grant Potulny left Saturday’s game with an injured shoulder and did not return.

Because of health privacy rules, Lucia was unable to comment on the injury after the game. The University is awaiting further diagnosis before releasing more information on the injury.

Coaching milestones

Both coaches achieved coaching milestones over the weekend. Blais, in his 10th season with North Dakota, earned his 250th career win.

Lucia notched career win 400 on Saturday. Since coming to Minnesota in 1999, he has amassed a 121-57-20 record coaching the Gophers.

Lucia started his head coaching career at Alaska-Fairbanks in 1987, then spent six years at Colorado College, where he won the WCHA regular season title three times.

A fuller full house

The Gophers-Sioux series brought attendance milestones as well.

On Friday, the 10,327 in attendance helped set the single-game record, and the 20,635 attendance mark for the series broke the record set Jan. 2-3 against Boston University.

“The fans got their money’s worth,” Lucia said Saturday. “I don’t think anyone’s asking for a refund after a game and a series like this.”

Former Gopher All-Star

Former Minnesota defenseman Paul Martin was voted to the NHL East YoungStars game Saturday. The YoungStars game is played the day before the NHL All-Star game on Feb. 7 in St. Paul.

“Can we bring him back when he comes into town for the weekend?” Lucia said after hearing the news.

Martin surprised many in August when he decided to forgo his senior season with the Gophers to sign with the New Jersey Devils.

Making league progress

With the series split, Minnesota maintained its fifth spot in the WCHA rankings with 19 points. Minnesota-Duluth tied for the lead with North Dakota at 26 points and St. Cloud State and Wisconsin are tied at 23 points.

This weekend against the Badgers, Minnesota has an opportunity to gain more ground in the league.

“All league games are must-wins now, but we really needed this one tonight,” Gophers goaltender Kellen Briggs said Saturday.

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