Defensemen battle to hold Heatley, Badgers off scoreboard

by David La

Minnesota’s starting defensemen, Matt DeMarchi and Jordan Leopold embodied the price paid for sweeping Wisconsin this weekend.
Following Friday’s 4-0 win, DeMarchi walked around with ice on his right wrist and bicep, while Leopold spoke to reporters with a small bump on his forearm.
After Saturday’s 5-2 victory, ice adorned DeMarchi’s left knee, while Leopold’s bump had grown to the size of a small tomato.
“We’ll feel them,” DeMarchi said of the wins. “Anytime you put your heart and soul into it, you’ll feel it.”
Both blueliners wore smiles as they recounted the recent battle, and for good reason. DeMarchi and Leopold led the neutralization of a physical Wisconsin team averaging four goals per game.
“We wanted to take people out as quick as we could instead of laying back,” Leopold said. “We were trying to get at them.”
Looming largest among the hulking Badgers was All-America sophomore Dany Heatley. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound forward, who notched at least one point in every game this season, acquired DeMarchi’s attention most of the weekend.
“I just tried to get in (Heatley’s) way, he’s a great player,” DeMarchi said. “Our job was to shut that line down, and that’s what we did pretty much the whole weekend.”
Heatley was held to one assist for the series.
Of DeMarchi’s seven penalties, four came in the act of defending Heatley, while the other three came defending Gophers teammates under siege.
“Matt played a great game again,” Leopold said Saturday. “He’s the punisher, not me. I told him, ‘Whatever you can do to go razz them, go do.’
“That’s his job. He’s the ruckus-bringer.”
The spirited border-battle resulted in 55 penalties for 145 minutes, including four 10-minute misconducts.
Wisconsin’s most blatant aggressors were Brad Winchester (13 penalty minutes) and Matt Doman (18), a pair who DeMarchi said tied for most-annoying honors.
“They both were,” DeMarchi said. The sophomore smiled knowingly.
“I think I was their biggest pain, too.”

Graham Crack(er)s
Early in a scoreless third period Friday, Badgers goaltender Graham Melanson drew a two minute delay of game penalty for purposely tipping the net over.
Melanson made a mental error while attempting to clear the Wisconsin zone, putting the puck right on the stick of Minnesota’s Grant Potulny while getting caught behind the net.
The senior stopper responded by pushing the net over, negating Potulny’s goal.
“There was no question he popped the net off,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “Otherwise it would have been a goal, so he made the smart play.”
Temper Taffe-trum
Minnesota’s Jeff Taffe took an early, then permanent trip to the locker room Saturday, after the nature of his 10-minute misconduct was determined by Lucia.
“He said something he shouldn’t have,” Lucia said. “Blank-blank, you can fill in the blank. That’s my rule, you swear at a referee, you’re done for the game. That’s the discipline.”
Lucia’s discipline was commendable, as Taffe’s second period penalty was the 20th whistle of the game. By comparison, Friday’s game featured 24 penalties.

David La Vaque covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]