No. 1 North Dakota knocks U out of Final 5

by Tim Nichols

The Gophers men’s hockey team was feeling confident heading into the WCHA Final Five at Target Center.
Minnesota had the home ice advantage, was fresh off two commanding shutouts of upstart Alaska-Anchorage and the seniors were finally picking up the scoring slack to lead their young Gophers team into battle.
But just one game with No. 1 North Dakota smashed all hopes of an NCAA tournament bid.
The Sioux dominated Minnesota from the drop of the puck as the WCHA’s Player of the Year/First Team All-WCHA/Hobey Baker finalist Jason Blake burnt goaltender Adam Hauser for a goal a little more than a minute into the game.
The Gophers’ 13 penalties, which resulted in three North Dakota power play goals, didn’t help matters much as the Sioux cruised to an emphatic 6-2 win.
“We didn’t give ourselves a chance to win tonight,” coach Doug Woog said. “I’m very disappointed.”
Minnesota looked overmatched from the beginning, and the partisan Sioux crowd reveled in the Gophers’ undisciplined and sloppy play.
Before the game, Woog said the match-up between his squad and North Dakota had the potential to become “a mismatch.” Unfortunately for the Gophers, Woog’s words proved prophetic.
“The coach called it, we didn’t give ourselves a chance,” forward Aaron Miskovich said. “We had penalties that were uncalled for. I don’t know why it happened.”
The North Dakota debacle came on the heels of one the Gophers’ gutsier performances of the season, when they defeated a tough — and completely healthy — St. Cloud State squad 5-3.
The Gophers picked up the game as if their first-round domination of Alaska-Anchorage never ended. Off the opening face-off, senior Reggie Berg passed along the left wing to Wyatt Smith, who beat Dean Weasler for the game’s first goal, only nine seconds after the puck hit the ice.
Fate seemed to smile on Minnesota as Hauser continued his spectacular goaltending, and junior Dave Spehar picked up his first and second even-strength goals of the season.
“I never think about (not having any five-on-five goals),” Spehar said. “Coach (Woog) reminds me, though.”
Following the Gophers’ win over the Huskies, Woog joked that Colorado College coach Don Lucia might loan him some players when the Gophers took on the Sioux if the Tigers lost to Denver.
Colorado College lost to the eventual Final Five champion Pioneers 4-3 in overtime of the semi-final, but some of the Tigers must have been offended by being jokingly offered as trade bait to the Gophers, most notably Justin Morrison.
The sophomore from Los Angeles notched a hat trick against the hapless Gophers en route to the 7-4 consolation game victory.
Freshmen John Pohl, Jordan Leopold and goaltender Rob LaRue put in solid efforts, but the end of the season left the Gophers with an all-too-familiar feeling mixed with some puzzled head-scratching.
“It’s really tough right now,” junior Nate Miller said. “We didn’t meet the goals we set. We need to get back to the basics, because beating good teams comes from the players. We need to get back to the level we expect to be at.”

Thursday, Mar. 18
Play-in game
St. Cloud State 0 1 2 — 3
Gophers 2 1 2 — 5

FIRST PERIOD: Minn — Smith 23 (Berg 26), :09. Minn — Spehar 11 (Angell 8), 15:10.
SECOND PERIOD: SCSU — Awada 13 (Jason Goulet 16, Pudlick 12), PPG, 15:27. Minn — Berg 18 (Spehar 21, Westrum 23), PPG, 16:29.
THIRD PERIOD: Minn — Spehar 12 (Berg 27, Kohn 5), 6:29. SCSU — Awada 14 (Sampair 14, Lund 9), 10:29. SCSU — Bailey 1 (Brooks 4, Gaffaney 5), 12:00. Minn — Berg 19 (Kohn 6), ENG, 19:06.

Friday, Mar. 19
Semifinal Game
North Dakota 2 4 0 — 6
Gophers 0 2 0 — 2

FIRST PERIOD: UND — Blake 28 (Hoogsteen 26, Jeff Ulmer 20), 1:06. UND — Jeff Panzer 20 (Jay Panzer 32, Bull 22), 12:07.
SECOND PERIOD: UND — Jeff Panzer 21 (Hoogsteen 27), PPG, 1:22. Minn — Wendell 7 (Spehar 22, Pohl 9), PPG, 4:33. UND — Jason Ulmer 6 (Commodore 8, Dorey 8), 5:41. UND — DeFauw 10 (Bull 23, Jay Panzer 33), PPG, 13:16. UND — Williamson 10 (Hoogsteen 28, Blake 41), PPG, 17:36.
THIRD PERIOD: no scoring.

Saturday, Mar. 20
Third-Place Game
Colorado College 2 4 1 — 7
Gophers 1 2 1 — 4

FIRST PERIOD: CC — S. Swanson 11 (Cullen 22, Kryway 11), PPG, 4:57. Minn — Pohl 7 (Westrum 24, Leopold 15), PPG, 6:06. CC — Stuart 2 (Cullen 23, Manning 9), PPG, 8:46.
SECOND PERIOD: CC — Morrison 19 (B. Swanson 39, S. Swanson 29), :43. Minn — Anderson 10 (Berg 28), 3:29. Minn — Spehar 13 (Westrum 25, Leopold 15), PPG, 5:19. CC — Morrison 20 (Heerema 22), 6:06. CC — Kryway 6 (Nelson 2, Cullen 24), 11:31. CC — Heerema 15 (Morrison 15), 12:33.
THIRD PERIOD: Minn — Miskovich 11 (Westrum 26, Wendell 7), PPG, 9:30. CC — Morrison 20 (B. Swanson 40), ENG, 19:30.