UMD proves worth in series vs. Gophers

by Tim Klobuchar

DULUTH — Early in Friday’s game against Minnesota-Duluth, University of Minnesota mascot Goldy Gopher paraded a sign while strolling behind the Gophers’ bench.
It read: “I miss the Wooger” — a reference to Gophers coach Doug Woog’s absence from the series. Woog was serving his one-week suspension for giving former Gophers defenseman Chris McAlpine $500 in 1994.
Directly across the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center ice, a member of the UMD student section flaunted his own sign that made the same reference but revealed a different take. It read: “Hey Woog! Can we have $500?”
Not long after the cross-ice exchange of ideas, UMD proved it was just as ready for the Gophers arrival as the Bulldogs fans were.
UMD went ballistic in the second period, scoring five goals on its way to a 7-4 victory. The convincing win ended a 10-game losing streak against the Gophers.
The Gophers, with their rich history of national championships and Hobey Baker-winners, are a marked team no matter who they play. But the Bulldogs have even more incentive.
They’ve been playing in the WCHA with the Gophers for more than 30 years but don’t receive anywhere near the recognition, despite the equal number of Hobey Baker-winners (three) and national championships since 1979 (zero). The state of Minnesota treats the Gophers like its adopted son, the Bulldogs like its weird Uncle Clarence.
UMD coach Mike Sertich chose a different familial comparison for the two hockey programs while talking to a few Twin Cities reporters after Saturday’s game, a 4-3 Gophers win.
“We’re the little kid,” Sertich said. “We don’t get the funding you do, we don’t get the exposure you do, and we don’t get the in-state players you do. We also don’t have some of the problems you do.”
Sertich said he did feel a slight lack of respect from the Gophers this weekend. But he didn’t voice his frustration like he did last year, when he was angered by the Mariucci Arena scoreboard depiction of his team as “Duluth.” Sertich has tried to get the point across that Duluth is a city, and that University of Minnesota-Duluth is a school.
The scoreboard at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center this weekend represented the two teams as “UMD” and “UMTC” — University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. Now fans could know the score in another sense. The Gophers and the Bulldogs were closer to being equal.
They were more evenly matched on the ice, too. They both won a game in the series and even in Friday’s blowout, they each had 48 penalty minutes — a statistic that proved the teams have an identical dislike for each other.
“It’s just the rivalry,” said Gophers junior center Ryan Kraft. “It’s always been that way. Ever since I can remember watching the Gophers and Duluth play, even my first two years here, every game’s been intense.”
Notice that Kraft committed the cardinal sin according to Sertich, referring to the Bulldogs as “Duluth.”
It was completely innocent, but it’s subtle statements like Kraft’s that make Bulldogs players, coaches and fans feel overlooked in their own state. Another reason is that the Gophers sign most of the best in-state talent, forcing the Bulldogs to go elsewhere, usually Canada, to field a competitive team. As a result, the Gophers are a team with whom Minnesotans more easily identify.
“I’ve always said they don’t recruit players, they select them,” Sertich said.
Although the Gophers beat the Bulldogs 4-3 Saturday night, UMD proved Friday night that it is capable of fighting back against the bully.
“They were pretty much thinking they could beat us every time,” Bulldogs senior captain Brad Federenko said. “We showed them we have a skilled team, and that we can play with anyone in the country.”
As he was saying this, a UMD player walked by and, in obvious reference to the Gophers, muttered, “prima donnas.”
The Bulldogs proved this weekend that the Gophers will have to take them more seriously in the future, but more than anything, they showed they’ll never forget the past.