After four games between four state of Minnesota teams, the Gophers came away with the inaugural North Star College Cup Championships in a shootout over UMD Saturday night. First how we got there:
After UMD defeated MSU-Mankato on the powerplay with under a minute remaining in overtime to advance to the championship game of the North Star College Cup, we should have known it was going to be an interesting weekend. The beginning of the Minnesota and St. Cloud State (Jan Brady State, Stearns County Community College) game looked like it was going to be a long one for the Gophers, as SCSU had six of the first seven shots on goal, and Gopher goalie Adam Wilcox had to make several outstanding early saves. The momentum began to chance once SCSU took the game's first penalty with 11:09 left in the first period. The Gophers wasted no time, and Hudson Fasching made a great pass to Travis Boyd who flipped a backhand over the Huskies Goalie, Ryan Faragher, to put Minnesota up 1-0.
The Gophers and Huskies played back and forth hockey through the rest of the first period, and up to the midpoint of the second period when St. Cloud's Jonny Brodzinski, brother of Gopher defenseman Micheal Brodzinski, got behind the Gopher defense and took about three wacks at the puck before one finally got pushed into the net past Wilcox to tie the game at 1. Three minutes later, Nate Condon made a great play faking a shot and pulling the puck past the rushing Huskie defenseman and snapped a wrist shot past Faragher to put the Gophers on top 2-1. After another SCSU penalty, Fasching made it 3-1 Gophers as he slammed home a rebound on a point shot from Mike Reilly on the powerplay. The second period ended with the Gophers up top 3-1.
The third period started with Charlie Lindgren replacing Faragher in the net for SCSU. Huskie coach Bob Motzko hoped it would fire up his squad, but it didn't seem to work as Wilcox once again shut down any offensive chances the Huskies had. Lindgren was pulled with about 1:30 left in the game, as the Huskies tried a last ditch chance to cut the gap, but Seth "All I do is score empty-net goals" Ambroz put an end to that with his team leading 11th goal of the season, and fourth empty net goal on the year. Wilcox finished with a career-high 38 saves at the Gophers were outshot 39-29, but the Gophers led in the tally that matters winning 4-1. The Gophers did lose Micheal Brodzinski to a "lower-body" injury late in the game, and he would miss Saturday's tilt.
Saturday: AKA National Poor Officiating Day
After SCSU defeated MSU-Mankato 6-4 in the third place game, with at least one goal by Mankato called back in a very questionable manner, you had a sense that the Champinship game between Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth could get interesting. That would be an understatement.
Saturday night started out the same way that Friday night did for the Gophers. UMD was outshooting the Gophers 7-2 with about 9:30 left in the first period when Kyle Rau gathered a puck behind the UMD net and threw it in front. The puck bounced off of a couple of UMD bodies and ended up right back on Rau's stick and he flicked the puck past UMD goalie Aaron Crandall and into the empty net to put the Gophers ahead 1-0.
That lead would disapear in a blink of an eye. UMD won the faceoff after the goal and marched into the Gopher zone. Caleb Herbert got the puck near the top of the slot and snapped a low shot past Wilcox to tie the game 18 seconds after Rau's goal. Unfortunately for Minnesota, this was just the beginning. Twenty-one seconds later Herbert found a streaking Austin Farley who tapped the puck past Wilcox and suddenly with two goals in 21 seconds, UMD was on top 2-1. The Gophers went on the powerplay after an elbowing call on UMD with approximately five minutes left in the period, and were rewarded when Gopher Captain Nate Condon snaked a shot through traffic in front of Crandall and past him to knot the game at 2. The first period would end this way.
The second period would be scoreless, but eventful neverless. Both Crandall and Wilcox made sveral point blank saves and kept the game tied. The most controversial call of the game by the referees would come with 42.8 seconds left in the period. Gopher defenseman Ben Marshall was skating at the Gopher blueline toward UMD's Farley with the puck off to the right of them. Farley looked up in time to see Marshall skating towards him and then hiting him at the blueline. Farley flopped to the ice, throwing his stick high in the air and curled into the fetal position on the ice as Marshall was first sent to the penalty box by the officials. After a conference, the NCHA officials decided to give Marshall a five minute major for contact to the head and a game misconduct, kicking Marshall out of the remainder of the game. The boos rattled from the Gopher fans in the arena, as most thought it was a poor call. Their thoughts were confirmed when replays of the hit showed Marshall and Farley collided shoulder to shoulder, and the only thing that hit Farley's head was his own shoulder. See the hit below in both gif and video form:
Farley was asked how he felt postgame. His reply:
Farley said he was okay minus a slightly sore shoulder. Didn't see Marshall, but "that's hockey."— Nate Wells (@gopherstate) January 26, 2014
His Shoulder.......not his head. Needless to say reactions from other relatively impartial observers on the call were not in the official's favor:
Just saw the replay. That's clean. Marshall got ejected for Farley's injury.— Nate Wells (@gopherstate) January 26, 2014
Really a game misconduct for that hit by Ben Marshall??— Dave Schwartz (@Dave_Schwartz) January 26, 2014
Just tuned into UMD-Minnesota Who was Floppy McFlopperson for UMD who drew the penalty on Minnesota's Marshall?— Mike Eidelbes (@INCH) January 26, 2014
Early in the third period with the teams playing four on four, they Gophers got a break as UMD was whistled for interference. The Gophers took advantage of the 4 on 3 powerplay when Fasching once again banged home a rebound of a Mike Reilly blast from the point and the Gophers went up 3-2. That lead was also short lived as UMD had three minutes of a powerplay remaining from the Marshall major. A short time later, Farley who had made a miraculous recovery after the Marshall hit scored on a one-timer from the slot to give him two goals on the game, to tie the game at 3, and to send another loud chorus of boos down on the officials from the Gopher fans in attendance.
Once again, the Gophers would strike on the powerplay. With 8:19 left in the third, Reilly avoided a rushing Bulldog defender and found Travis Boyd open on the wing. He ripped a slapshot past Crandall and put Minnesota up 4-3. UMD tried feveriously to tiw the game in the last minutes of the third, and the Gopher seemed content to continue to dump the puck and try to withstand the storm. UMD would get the equalizer however, as Joe Basaraba beat Wilcox high to his glove side to make it 4-4 with just over two minutes left in regulation. The Gophers would withstand a questionable Seth Ambroz boarding penalty with 1:27 left in regulation, and the game would go to overtime.
The Gophers killed off the last 30 seconds of Ambroz's penalty, and both teams had chances early in ot. The Gophers appeared to have gained the momentum when Bulldog Willie Raskob was called for boarding with 1:29 left in overtime and the Gophers allready 3 for 6 on the powerplay on the evening. However, the officials had other ideas as Boyd was called for tripping eight seconds later on a olympic quality dive by the UMD player. See for yourself below:
Needless to say....this set off the twitters:
I have no skin in the game, but I officially protest the outcome of this MN-UMD game. That dive was atrocious, embarrassing...embartrocious— Mike Eidelbes (@INCH) January 26, 2014
Are u kidding me! Wat a ridiculous dive by UMD— kyle kohls (@kohls10) January 26, 2014
Theater is a requirement for UMD Hockey players. That dive would have got him an F. #pooracting— Kyle Vickerman (@KyleVickerman) January 26, 2014
Both teams had chances, but no goals were socred with the teams four on four, and the game would go to a shootout to determine who would win the trophy. It would be considered a tie for NCAA Tournament purposes.
The Gophers came into the game 0-3 on the season in shootouts. In face they had yet to score a shooutout goal.
UMD would shoot first, and Alex Iffallo was stoned by Wilcox. Kyle Rau would shoot first for the Gophers and he slid a shout through Crandall's five-hole to give the Gophers a 1-0 advantage. Caleb Herbert shot next for UMD, and Wilcox made an outstanding glove save. Seth Ambroz was the next shooter for the Gophers, and with Farley waiting next for UMD if Ambrox would miss, the Junior slid the puck past Crandall, and went to the corner of the rink and popped the M on his jersey a la another #17 for the Gophers in this arena a few years ago:
***UPDATE SWEET VIDEO OF AMBROZ'S SHOOTOUT WINNER***
Adam Wilcox added another 38 saves to his 38 from the night before and was named the MVP of the tournament. The Holy Grail-like trophy will sit in Mariucci Arena until the Gophers will attempt to defend it in January 2015. As for this season. the Gophers will return home to Mariucci next weekend to take on Michigan State. The Gophers won and lost in a shootout in East Lansing in December, so you can expect the Gophers will be ready to try and get 6 points out of the weekend this time.