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DUNLAP ISLAND – Well friends, I’ve seen a lot of hockey the past three weeks. But little of it has had the ups and downs of the past four days.
The NCAA Frozen Four took place on Thursday and this evening, and with my beloved State of Minnesota holding 3-to-1 odds to bring a championship back here, we came up short.
About the only bright spot was in one home-state team beating another in the semis when St. Cloud State bested Minnesota State Mankato by a 5-4F. The Mavs had a bit of an indifferent start to the game, and The Cloud capitalized, taking a 1-0 lead 3:18 into the first.
About 13 minutes later, the Mavs tied it, and that lasted 10 seconds. This tilt would eventually see a 3-1 Huskies lead before the Mavs came back to knot it at three each. The Mavs would go ahead early in the 3rd, then SCSU tied it at four. With 52 seconds left, the Huskies would propel themselves into the Final on a Nolan Walker goal.
The Mavs put on a blitz but couldn’t tie the game. Their Mavs Cinderella run was finis’.
In the nightcap, UMD met up with UMass, and unlike the first game, both teams appeared to be into it right from the get-go. At 15:33, the Minutemen broke the ice on a Zac Jones score.
But the Bulldogs stormed back and tied the game about 2 1/2 minutes afterward. Just beyond the midway point of the second frame, the Dogs’ would take the lead on a Cole Koepke score.
UMD entered the 3rd with the game in their hands, but UMass had other ideas and got this tilt tied at two on a goal that would eventually send this one to an extra period.
I can’t explain precisely what I witnessed over the next 15 or so minutes, but the Minutemen came out loaded for bear in the OT and pretty much-dominated play en route to a score at 14:30 by Garrett Wait and an invite to play this evening against the Huskies. I have no other way to explain it.
Of the thousands of games I have seen in my lifetime at every level possible, I could likely count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a team play like this against another pretty powerful club in overtime.
The better part of the frame was spent in the Dogs’ zone. UMD goaltender Zach Stejskal was likely the sole factor that this game wasn’t over sooner. It was like the Dogs lost their skating legs during the intermission. I’m only going for an honest analysis here, folks.
This evening, the momentum was definitely with the Minutemen again. Without writing a gamer here, they got the GWG at 7:26 of the first period and never looked back on the way to a 5-0 final. The Huskies did battle, and I can’t say that their effort wasn’t there. But it seemed as if all they did was futile in trying to bring a title home with them. I recall ESPN play by play analyst John Buccigross reviewing one of the UMass scores.
He was pointing out two mistakes made by SCSU on the play that led to it, and I was thinking that it mattered not what age level the play was at, hockey is won by making the least mistakes. And early on, it didn’t look like the Huskies could stop making them.
So, 3-to-1 odds, and none of our clubs could bring it home. That’s harsh.
In the lead-up to the event, much was made of our three entrants and how proud people like Herb Brooks and John Mariucci would be. Of course, these statements were coming from “easterners.”
Well, I’ve got some news for you; they are still proud. It took a long time for our state to get to this watershed moment. It has very much been a process.
And in the “take this and smoke it” category, what are you guys going to say when we send four teams to the F4? Because that day might be closer than you think.
THE MINNESOTA WILD was on a hockey yo-yo of sorts in the past week. They met the COL Avalanche on Monday and Wednesday in St. Paul. In G1, they would take a 1-0 lead into the first break. The game was over from that point on. The Avs would take a 4-1 lead and then a 5-2 lead on the way to a 5-4F.
Let me add that the final score was misleading – the Avs toyed with the Wild from the 2nd frame forth. THEN, on Wednesday eve, the boys came fully loaded and ready to go and spanked the Mile High crew in an 8-3 whipping.
This game was one of the most dominant performances by this club I have ever seen. The boys dropped the hammer on their western nemesis.
The team then traveled to the Gateway City for a Fri-Sat back to back set versus the Blues. Without reviewing the bad and the ugly (there was no good), the Wild got a beatdown to the tune of a 9-1 loss.
The team’s skating legs surely must have still been sitting on the luggage carousel out at Lambert airport. It was the worst margin of defeat in team history.
The boys got some rest, regrouped, and had a better go of it in the Satur-day tilt. They took a 1-0 lead late in the first when Nico Sturm scored. The Bluenote tied it early in the 2nd when Mike Hoffman lit the lamp.
The Wild regained the lead late in this frame on a Matt Dumba score. After scrapping it out for the best part of the 3rd and on the verge of an epic win, Hoffman tied the game with 42 seconds to go.
The Blues got the win when Ryan O’Reilly scored with two seconds to go in the OT.
There are 16 games (in 26 days) to go with a possible 32 points at stake. Due to earlier scheduling revisions, 5 of these games are with STL.
Currently, 7 points separate the two clubs, with the WILD holding a game in hand. Based on their back-to-back wins in this set, the Blues have pushed ARI down to 5th and propelled themselves into the final West playoff position.
And now, a new question emerges; can the Wild hold on to theirs? PEACE
WILD DATA; the SAGARIN, 17th on a 24-16 record, 8-9 versus the top ten & sixteen teams with a 6th ranked difficulty of schedule. THE ATHLETIC, projected for a 3rd place West finish on a 34-18-4 record for 72 points. 100% chance at the playoffs with a 4% chance at a Cup win. NHL DATA; 3rd in the West on a 24-13-3 record for 51 points, .637 percentage of points available, 119/GF, 109/GA, for a +10 differential. 14-4 @ H, 10-9-3 @ A. 5-3-2 in L10, streak of 2L. (1 OTL) 12th/GF, 12th/GA, 27th/PP @ 15.1%, 5th/PK @ 84%. 31st/PIM’s @ 409 mins. OVER & OUT!