Disallowed goal gives Gophers momentum for entire series

Mark Remme

>DULUTH – During a pair of hard-fought wins over rival Minnesota-Duluth last weekend, Minnesota’s men’s hockey team seemed to have the momentum throughout much of the games.

But a controversial call in the first period of Friday night’s contest might have changed the course of the series in favor of the Gophers.

The confusion began with Minnesota up 1-0 and finishing a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity.

Freshman defenseman Erik Johnson ripped a shot from the blue line, which deflected out to center ice.

Bulldogs senior forward Bryan McGregor picked up the puck as he came onto the ice, as freshman forward Drew Akins returned to the bench after serving a two-minute penalty for tripping.

McGregor skated into the Gophers zone on a breakaway and beat Minnesota senior goaltender Kellen Briggs above his glove.

A raucous crowd at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center went crazy as the entire arena thought Minnesota-Duluth had capitalized on a short-handed goal to tie the game 1-1.

But referee Don Adams spent almost 15 minutes reviewing the play and ultimately the score was taken away.

The officiating crew ruled McGregor had touched the puck while Akins was still on the ice, so instead of a short-handed, game-tying goal, the Bulldogs were given a minor penalty for too many men on the ice.

A near sellout crowd of 5,447 at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center gave Adams and the officiating crew more than an earful when they approached a blue line face-off dot and not center ice, which is where the puck would have been dropped if Minnesota-Duluth had been awarded the goal.

“They should’ve blown it dead – that’s what should’ve happened,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “They shouldn’t have allowed the play to continue because he had the penalty called.”

Lucia said while it took an extended period of time for the officiating crew to make their decision, all that mattered was that they came to the correct conclusion.

Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin had a different take on the situation.

Visibly upset, he said the officials called it a goal and then changed their decision twice before making the call.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Sandelin said. “Talk about a momentum-changer.”

Sandelin said there was no reason for the officials to change their decision.

“They would talk to me and then go talk to Donny (Lucia), and they’d have a different decision,” Sandelin said. “Tell me if I’m wrong in being just a little upset.”

The Bulldogs subsequently fell into a 3-0 hole and, despite two third-period goals, were unable to complete the comeback.

Then, despite a sluggish start Saturday, the Gophers were able to complete the weekend and season sweep of Minnesota-Duluth.

And, despite two close contests that gave fans almost everything they could ask for in a pair of hockey games, the Bulldogs faithful won’t forget the “goal that never was” any time soon.

“The bottom line is that they got it right and that’s what’s important,” Lucia said. “I think the guy had the puck at the red line before the guy came out of the penalty box – I saw it right away, that’s why I jumped right up.”