Broadmoor stays put

Men’s hockey team wins final five again in St. Paul

Lou Raguse

Clutch players emerge in clutch situations, and Minnesota men’s hockey senior Grant Potulny has made a career out of doing just that.

Saturday’s WCHA Final Five Tournament turned into padding for Potulny’s resume when he grabbed the puck off the boards behind the goal, took two strides and deposited it into the goal to give the Gophers a 5-4 win over North Dakota.

He did so at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, the same arena in which Potulny scored the NCAA Championship game-winner in 2002.

“This has got to be number two,” Potulny said of ranking his Xcel accomplishments.

The win gave Minnesota its second straight Broadmoor Trophy. It also gave Potulny vengeance against his hometown team that knocked both he and his brother Ryan Potulny out of the Gophers’ lineup during the regular season.

But most importantly, by beating the nation’s top team, the Gophers proved to themselves they are playing at the level needed going into the NCAA regionals this weekend.

“We showed this weekend by beating two of the best teams in the country that we can play with those teams,” Grant Potulny said. “But I don’t think we’re satisfied until we win the last game of the year.”

The Gophers earned a No. 1 seed in the Midwest Regional and will open NCAA tournament play this Saturday against fourth-seeded Notre Dame.

Against the Sioux, Minnesota struck first on a power-play goal by Danny Irmen 10:39 into the game. The Gophers continued to outplay North Dakota after that goal, but the Sioux tied the game 3:03 before the intermission.

Penalties for Minnesota’s Gino Guyer and North Dakota’s Brandon Bochenski left the two teams playing four-on-four hockey, and 10 seconds later, Gophers senior Troy Riddle took a holding penalty to give the Sioux a four-on-three advantage.

Zach Parise found teammate Drew Stafford breaking to the net during the power play, and Stafford converted.

Minnesota kept the momentum in its favor when senior Jon Waibel scored early in the second period. Waibel scored again less than two minutes later, but the goal was disallowed when the review showed Barry Tallackson in the crease.

That is where the tide shifted in favor of the Sioux.

“Having that goal disallowed was almost like us scoring a goal,” Bochenski said. “Once we got it tied up, we got it going.”

Bochenski tied the game at 2-2 and teammate Parise put the Sioux ahead going into the third period.

And in the third, Minnesota’s top-end players stepped forward and took over the game.

Sophomore Thomas Vanek and Riddle scored before Bochenski re-tied the game midway through the period.

Then, with 6:02 remaining in his last period as a Gophers player in a Minnesota arena, Grant Potulny notched the game-winner.

“What a fitting tribute for Grant to score the final goal in the Twin Cities and get the game-winner,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “We told the guys after the second period we needed our big guys to step up.”

The Gophers advanced to the Final Five Championship by defeating Minnesota-Duluth on Friday. The Bulldogs decisively swept both regular-season series from the Gophers and held the No. 2 seed in the tournament.

But after a first period that mirrored much of the Gophers’ play in the teams’ last four meetings, Minnesota cranked out 32 shots and five goals to pull away with a 7-4 victory.

Irmen led Minnesota with two goals, and fellow rookie Ryan Potulny had a goal and an assist.

“Danny is a hard-working player, and he gets more hard-working goals,” Lucia said. “The ones who want to get their noses dirty will score goals.”