For those not in attendance at the Minnesota-Minnesota State play-in game to open the 2000 WCHA Final Five, don’t let the 6-4 final score confuse you.
Despite prevailing in an apparent shoot-out, Minnesota’s goaltender Adam Hauser won the game for the Gophers — in the first period.
“If 19 shots is what’s going to happen, then it’s my job to stop them,” Hauser said following the game. “They’ve got some great players who are going to score goals, there’s no denying that. I didn’t play my best tonight, but that’s the way it goes.”
Both goalies were tested early and often, and Hauser allowed the only goal of the period, when Jesse Rooney buried one off a 2-1 rush.
But Hauser, the sophomore netminder from Bovey, Minn., stopped 18 of 19 Mavericks shots in the first, keeping the sluggish Gophers alive to fight another day.
“You could almost flip-flop our first and their third periods,” retiring Minnesota State coach Don Brose said. “All it took was to give them a little opening. And when we did, they buried their chances.”
Jeff Taffe nailed the first of those chances, just 2:07 into the second, to tie the score. Seven minutes later Dave Spehar drew twine on a spinning power-play goal and Minnesota had the lead.
Aaron Fox tied the game for the Mavericks, setting the stage for a wild third period which would eventually end with Minnesota State heading home and the Gophers preparing for a date with top-ranked Wisconsin on Friday.
Minnesota opened the scoring with tallies by Dan Welch and Erik Westrum and never looked back. Though the Mavericks would close the gap to one goal twice — including with 36 seconds to play and their net empty — Minnesota always had the answer.
“Every time they came back, we answered the next shift,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “We won the third period and that’s what you have to do to beat good hockey teams.”
Still, nothing was decided until Westrum snapped his second of the evening past screened netminder Eric Pateman to ice the win for the Gophers.
That goal set up a meeting with all-universe Wisconsin tomorrow in the second semifinal at 7:05 p.m. Though the Gophers are looking for revenge against a team who has beaten them four times by one goal, Lucia said he isn’t banking the Gophers’ season on one game.
“The point of this tournament is to get in to the NCAAs,” he said. “I’ve seen teams who have to win Saturday to get in, and have nothing left in the tank, so we’ll definitely get some fresh bodies in there tomorrow night.”
But after looking at the postgame Pairwise rankings, Lucia will likely have to lay it all on the line again tomorrow. The Gophers stand at 16th in the computer rankings, the same place they were before the game began.
As for the cinderella Mavericks, and their departing coach, the first-round loss likely means the end of NCAA hopes. But Brose, who was honored as the WCHA Coach of the Year earlier in the day, had nothing but compliments for his players.
“It will dawn on me tomorrow that it’s over, but it’s been a great career,” Brose said. “We’ve got 22 Minnesota kids on this team who weren’t talked to by anyone in the WCHA, and for them to play this well this year is a dream.”
Josh Linehan covers men’s hockey and welcomes comments at [email protected]