Gophers’ overtime goal nabs 4th Holiday Classic title in row

Gophers goaltender named tournament’s MVP

by Adam Fink

Minnesota’s men’s hockey players swarmed the ice in championship fashion Saturday night, heading for the northwest corner of Mariucci Arena to mob teammate Troy Riddle.

Moments earlier, Riddle had knocked in the puck past Boston College goaltender Matti Kaltiainen, ending a marathon night of two evenly matched teams. Riddle’s overtime goal at the 2:30 mark gave the seventh-ranked Gophers (11-4-4) a hard-fought 2-1 win and their fourth consecutive Dodge Holiday Classic title.

In addition, the goal ended a game between two teams that had similar intensity, effort and skill levels for the entire contest.

But what else could be expected from the previous two NCAA national champions (Boston College in 2001 and Minnesota last year)?

“It was a great hockey game,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said. “Everyone had to work for goals, there were no easy ones. We had to fight for every inch.

“This was an important weekend because we played well against two high caliber teams (Yale and the Eagles) and won.”

The story of the game was goaltending. Gophers goalie Travis Weber ñ named the tournament MVP ñ stopped 29 shots Saturday, and 31 in Friday’s 3-1 win over Yale.

His impressive play ñ including early in overtime when Weber successfully thwarted a Boston College rush ñ has Minnesota’s confidence level high.

“I can’t give enough credit to my defense,” Weber said. “There was so much talent out there, but my defense just played amazing.”

Lucia added, “Travis is responding to his starting role. The team is confident in him.”

Still, Boston College’s Kaltiainen wasn’t overshadowed in the net by Weber. The sophomore stopped 39 shots and didn’t relent to Minnesota’s pressure.

Eagles coach Jerry York said if his team had won, there might have been a different MVP.

“Both goaltenders played very well,” York said. “If we win the game, Matti wins the MVP. He played that well tonight.”

Minnesota got on the scoreboard first, when little-used defenseman Joey Martin scored late in the second period.

Boston College answered at 11:24 of the third period when rookie Chris Collins squirted the puck past Gophers defensemen Chris Harrington and Weber, setting up the overtime dramatics.

The win continues a recent stretch of success for Minnesota. The Gophers are 6-1-2 in the past nine games and are contesting to be one of the hottest teams in the nation.

Winning the tournament also sends a message to St Cloud State, next weekend’s opponent, and the rest of the WCHA: The Gophers are playing the best hockey of their season.

“We have a difficult stretch coming up,” Lucia said. “But we didn’t give up (this weekend) and guys are playing the best I have seen in awhile.”

Tournament highlights

ï Joining Weber on the All-Tournament team was Thomas Vanek (MN), Ryan Murphy (BC), D’Arcy McConvey (BGSU), J.D. Forrest (BC), and Paul Martin (MN).

ï Yale defeated Bowling Green 5-1 earlier in the day in the consolation game Saturday, The Bulldogs jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first period en route to claiming third place in the tournament.

ï Gophers forward Barry Tallackson scored one goal Saturday for the U.S. National Junior Team in its 3-1 win over Switzerland. Tallackson is joined on the squad by teammate Gino Guyer.

Adam Fink covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]