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When last weekend came to a conclusion, I felt as though I needed to hibernate for about a 20-hour deep sleep. In my younger days, Saturday would have seemed pretty routine, but it was all worth it, and I’d do it all again, because it tied in a lot of things that were important in the hockey world.
First, I covered UMD’s Friday night women’s game against No. 2 ranked Wisconsin, which was not conducive to a good night’s sleep. Ryleigh Houston scored a first-period goal to get the Bulldogs on the road to an upset with a 1-0 lead, but after than it was all Badgers. In case you’ve forgotten, this was the final regular-season series and UMD needed to win to secure third place, while Wisconsin needed to win to outdistance Minnesota for first — and the automatic bye into the semifinals of the WCHA tournament.
Well, the Badgers jumped ahead 2-1 on goals by Sophie Shirley ad Grace Bowlby in the second, and then the Badgers sealed a 4-1 victory with goals by Daryl Watts and Brette Pettet in the first four minutes of the third.
I came home and slept fast, because I needed to rise at 4 a.m. to drive to Golden Valley for an 8:15 a.m. live interview on Channel 11 about my book, “Miracle in Lake Placid.” Then I dashed over to Saint Paul for the “Remember the Day” celebration for the 40th anniversary of Team USA’s fabulous 4-3 victory over the Soviet Union to get within one victory of the gold medal at Lake Placid.
It was a great day for hockey, as Badger Bob Johnson might say, because David Brooks, the younger brother of U.S. coach Herb Brooks, orchestrated a ceremony with the Minnesota Wild that included 12 youth hockey teams dressed in replica uniforms of the 1980 teams, and they marched in a parade eight blocks through downtown Saint Paul to the Saint Paul Saints baseball stadium, where a hockey rink had been installed on the infield. The Peewees, Bantams and Midgets squared off in a series of 30-minute games, after which they came upstairs to a suite, where 26 former NHL players had gathered to sign autographs.
I was able to set up a table and sell a few books there, as well. When all that ended, I lugged the rest of the books downstairs, across the street and into my road-test pickup truck and drove back to Xcel Center, where I was able to catch the Class A state girls hockey championship game. Cloquet-Esko-Carlton had made a stirring, inspirational charge past Hutchinson, and then past heavily-favored Warroad 5-3 to gain the championship game. However, my plan to catch up with the “Miracle in Xcel Center” came up short when powerful Breck throttled the Lumberjacks 6-0.
But what a day! And what a run they made! But wait, there’s more.
I hustled outside and jumped in my trusty pickup and drove directly to Interstate 35E, northbound. Two hours later, with no time to stop for even fast food, I pulled into the AMSOIL Arena parking lot, just in time to watch the third period as what I have described as the best Denfeld team in two decades squelched defending Section 7A champion Greenway of Coleraine 4-1 to sail into Wednesday night’s 7A final full of hope against powerful and top-seeded Hermantown.
When I got home, just in time for Saturday Night Live, I realized that I had forgotten one thing: After a starter breakfast of Positively 3rd Street’s great granola and a cup of coffee, I hadn’t stoped to eat another morsel all day! That’s not like me. I love hockey, but I love to eat, too. In this case, I had set out a tall mug of coffee, a thermos jug of our own priceless water, and a small can of Perrier just for backup. That was in case I got sleepy while driving, but then I drove away leaving the three vessels standing forlornly on our kitchen counter.
So I toasted a couple of slices of Great Harvest bread, slathered them with peanut butter, and had “dinner” at midnight.
I could have used a relaxing Sunday, but no way. I was scheduled to take the stage at the Spirit of the North Theatre on the third floor of Fitger’s to discuss how and why my book was worth reading, and the folks at the Bookstore at Fitger’s arranged for a big screen so I could show an array of 40-year-old color slides I had shot at the U.S. games against Sweden, the USSR and Finland.
It was a good time, and we sorted out some questions that arose from the many misconceptions left about the Team USA victory by assorted other books and movies about the still iconic performance.
Afterward, with a few more signings, I dashed off to AMSOIL to catch the end of the second Wisconsin-UMD women’s game — the final regular season game. UMD had taken charge, impressively, in the game the
Badgers desperately wanted. Kylie Hanley scored in the first period, and Ryleigh Houston shorthanded in the second for a 2-0 lead.
The Badgers snarled back to tie it 2-2 in the second,then Daryl Watts broke the tie at 0:47 of the third. That was enough for UMD captain Sydney Brodt, who scored at 1:25 and again at 3:51 to regain the lead at 4-3. And before Wisconsin could mount a counter-attack, Anna Klein scored her 12th of the season with 3:32 remaining in the third period — an apparent clinching goal for a 5-3 lead.
Before the game reached the final minute of regulation, Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson — who had passed up a Las Vegas celebration for the ’80 Olympic team — pulled his goaltender, Kristen Campbell, and Watts, fed Sophie Shirley who knocked it past the diving Maddie Rooney to close the gap to 5-4 with 59 seconds remaining.
As soon as the Badgers got possession next, Johnson pulled Campbell again, and this time Abby Roque beat Rooney, diving at the left edge of the crease to convert yet another feed from Watts. With 15 seconds remaining, the Badgers had fashioned a 5-5 deadlock.
The teams battled through five minutes of overtime, then it was 3-on-3 for another five minutes. This time, Watts, who already had a goal and three assists in the game, raced up the right boards and made a world-class move to beat the defense and sail across the crease alone, scoring at 1:04 for a 6-5 Badger victory.
“I’ve seen a lot of games where you might be down by a couple goals and pull your goalie,” said Johnson. “But I have never been involved in a game where you’re down by two, pull your goalie twice, and score two goals to tie it. And then win it.”
The Bulldogs will open playoffs with a best-of-three series against Bemidji State, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, needing to regroup from as shattering a loss as they have endured all season in finishing fourth at 11-8-5. The Badgers, meanwhile, have the weekend off, gaining the seven-team WCHA’s bye into the semifinals. Of course, if the Bulldogs can get past Bemidji State, they have a semifinal date at Ridder Arena — against Wisconsin.