Frozen Four sets hockey attendance records

David La Vaque

All week, Minnesota coach Don Lucia denied any suggestions his team would enjoy home-ice advantage at the Frozen Four. Never mind that the Xcel Energy Center is only a short drive from the University campus; Lucia maintained the Gophers would receive crowd support proportionate to the other three schools.

Fat chance.

Minnesota took the ice in Thursday’s semifinal against Michigan before 19,234 fans, a crowd that vehemently supported its home team. The attendance figure set a new NCAA men’s Frozen Four record, breaking the mark set in Thursday’s first semifinal between Maine and New Hampshire.

Thursday’s games combined to set a new all-time attendance record for Xcel Energy Center events and was the largest crowd ever for a college hockey game in Minnesota.

The Gophers’ Grant Potulny sent the group into a frenzy with his goal 4:20 into the first period. The crowd reached even higher decibel levels later in the game, leaving Potulny and his teammates awestruck.

“It was so loud in the second period we couldn’t hear each other in the faceoff circle,” he said. “We all looked at each other in shock.”

Minnesota is now 3-3-0 all-time at the Xcel Energy Center.

By the numbers

Junior Jeff Taffe scored his team-leading 34th goal of the season in the third period on a breakaway against Michigan goaltender Josh Blackburn. The score was just Taffe’s second breakaway goal this season. Ironically, the other came in November against Michigan in the College Hockey Showcase. It was one of Taffe’s three tallies in that game.

“I thought (Blackburn) would be thinking about that, so I just went the other way and was able to pull through.”

Taffe also assisted on the first goal of the game, giving him 18 multiple-point games this season.

ï Leopold’s second-period assist gave him 98 for his career, tying Travis Richards for fourth place all-time among defensemen in Minnesota history.

ï Both Leopold and Pohl will finish the year at least tied for the national points lead for their respective positions. Leopold overtook the national lead in defensive points (47), while Pohl is now tied for overall points (76) with New Hampshire’s Darren Haydar.

ï The Gophers have now scored three or more goals in 10 straight NCAA tournament games.

ï Minnesota was outshot 29-26 in the game and is now 8-1-1 when they are out-shot.

ï The Gophers are 17-1-1 when scoring the first goal.

ï Minnesota will not lose back-to-back games this season.