Goofy goal boosts U against St. Cloud

by Tim Nichols

There were no black cats crossing the path of the puck, and the moon wasn’t full. But still the men’s hockey team’s weekend series with St. Cloud State couldn’t have been any more strange.
Minnesota opened the scoring Friday with a goal that Wyatt Smith appeared to have directed toward the net with his skate. By the rules, the goal shouldn’t have counted, but the referee’s ruling stood.
The oddities kept coming in the second period. St. Cloud State pulled its goaltender for an extra attacker on a delayed penalty call, but a centering pass slid through traffic and into the Huskies goal, about 180 feet away.
So unusual was the play that coach Doug Woog couldn’t even offer an opinion.
“You know what, as weird as it was, I couldn’t respond one way or the other,” Woog said. “The fact was that it happened at a certain part of the period, and the ice was so fresh that the puck couldn’t get down there any other time.”
The play occurred at about the 4:15 mark of the second period, when the Gophers’ Mike Anderson was called for hooking. St. Cloud goaltender Scott Meyer left the ice for an extra attacker, but forward Jason Goulet fell down behind the Minnesota net. From flat on his stomach, facing the boards, Goulet swiped at the puck with his stick, trying to get the puck to his defense at the blue line. Goulet put a little too much mustard on his pass, however, and St. Cloud’s out-of-position defensemen scrambled helplessly after the puck as it headed for the center of the net.
“I think I saw it once in a National Hockey League game,” St. Cloud coach Craig Dahl said. “When it happened, all I could do is smile and shrug my shoulders. I said to my players, `Aw, shoot, how in the heck could that happen.’ You know, what can you do?”
The freak goal stunned everyone on the ice, if not everyone in Mariucci Arena.
“(Goulet) actually said after the goal, `You’re welcome for the goal,'” said Anderson, who was credited with the goal because he was the last Minnesota player to touch the puck. “I’ve never had an easy goal before.”
Woog said if a goal like that had happened last year, it probably would have happened for the opposing team.
“We’ll take the luck,” Woog said, “because you can always get the other side of it.”
Woog’s words were painfully prophetic for the Gophers at the 19:44 mark of Saturday’s loss, when Goulet returned the favor.
The play came seconds after Nate Miller tied the score at 5-5. After a Gophers turnover in the neutral zone, Goulet took the puck on a two-on-one, and beat Willy Marvin to kill the Minnesota comeback.
The sounds of the Gophers frustration leaked through the locker room door after the game. The luck that was there for the Gophers the night before was gone, and so was the chance at a win that seemed probable only minutes before.
But it wasn’t random, dumb luck that did in Minnesota — it was turnovers.
“When you’re down by a goal you’ve got to get the puck in the third period instead of turning the puck over,” Woog said. “Then you turn the puck over once. Those turnovers are huge.”
The severity of the turnovers the Gophers had were killers in a nip-and-tuck game like the one in St. Cloud.
“We were trying to get into the one-on-one situation,” Woog said. “Actually they were passes, but they were to the wrong team. Westy (Erik Westrum) did that one time. Right before that, it was just inside of the blue line, then, boom, it was right back at us. We’ve got to learn how to play the gray areas better.”
The Gophers bad decision making in the so-called “gray areas” is something they will have to learn in time. But with Wisconsin, Colorado College and North Dakota coming up, they had better be quick studies.