Goehring, Spehar to face each other again

by Aaron Kirscht

The Gophers’ Dave Spehar, then with Duluth East, was the sniper — shrewd and swift. Apple Valley goaltender Karl Goehring, now a freshman at North Dakota, was small of stature, but positively Herculean — a fluid, floating brick wall.
They met in the Class AA semifinals of the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament in March 1996, a game that has since gone down as the longest, if not the finest, in tournament history. Apple Valley won that game, 5-4, after five overtimes of frustration and fatigue, elation and exasperation.
A week later, Spehar was named Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey, and Goehring won the Frank Brimsek Award, given to the state’s top goalie. Spehar was headed south to the University, Goehring to a year of junior hockey in Fargo-Moorhead.
This weekend, they’ll meet again, for the first time in their college careers. Their reputations haven’t changed much. Spehar, a sophomore, is one of the leading scorers for Minnesota, and the rookie Goehring is the top goalie in the WCHA for the first-place and defending NCAA champion Sioux.
The memories haven’t faded, either.
“I still have little kids come up to me and say, ‘Hey, aren’t you the one who played in the tournament, the game that lasted all night?” Goehring said. “I think I’ll be hearing about it for the rest of my life.”
Spehar, on the losing end of that epic battle, wasn’t exactly waxing nostalgic about the game. He remembers it fondly, but not too fondly.
“That was two years ago,” Spehar said. “That stuff happened in high school, and this is college. It’s different now.
“It’s not like I’ll ever forget about it, but it’s not something I’m going to dwell on.”
The Gophers recruited Goehring long and hard, but timing, perhaps more than anything else, did them in. Minnesota has a full slate of goaltenders — Willy Marvin, Erik Day and Steve DeBus — and Goehring didn’t want to spend another year in junior hockey waiting for Steve DeBus’ scholarship to open up.
If Goehring had decided to attend Minnesota, he would have had to pay his own way for a year and face competition from Marvin, Day and incoming Coleraine, Minn. recruit Adam Hauser next season.
“Most goaltenders don’t want to see a lot of trees in their way,” Gophers coach Doug Woog said.
The trees were fewer on the plains of North Dakota. Last year’s freshman sensation, Aaron Schweitzer, fashioned a 17-3 record with a goals-against average of 2.31 and looked likely to sign a pro contract before his time in Grand Forks was up.
But while Schweitzer is no longer the Sioux’s starting goalie, it didn’t happen the way many expected.
Schweitzer opened the season at Minnesota, but Goehring got an opportunity a week later when Schweitzer injured his groin before a series at Colorado College. He worked his way into the starting lineup on a more permanent basis by stopping a combined 76 of 81 shots.
Since then, Goehring has gone 15-1-1 with a 1.67 GAA, the kind of numbers more often seen from a senior All-American. He leads the nation in goals-against average, save percentage (.938) and winning percentage (.900).
“I didn’t really expect it,” Goehring said. “I just went in and went about my business. I’ve been really fortunate to get some bounces.”
He’s not out there alone, of course. Goehring has arguably the most talented team in the country playing in front of him — an asset that would make even an average goalie shine.
But Goehring is no average goalie, and had he chosen to stay closer to home, the Gophers might be riding him to another 20-win season and a berth in the NCAA tournament.
“I guess I don’t like looking back and saying ‘what if?'” Goehring said. “I’m just happy that I got the offer I got.
“It’s pretty exciting just to play college hockey and be on a competitive team, knowing that your team can compete for the national championship. It’s awesome.”