The idea for this post, and another coming later in the week for football (sorry Gopher basketball fans... I couldn't come up with 10 for basketball) came originally out of a post on the NFL Nation blog on ESPN that named the three most memorable plays in each NFL franchise's history. It then became a talker on Twin Cities sports radio recently. However, they all took a much more pro centric view on their lists, so I decided to make my own and make it only Gopher Sports plays.
Now this is not a be all end all of top plays in Gopher Hockey History. But it is a fairly strong list. Also key is the word play. Its not the most memorable games, in fact there may be many memorable games that don't have a significant memorable play. In fact, One would argue that all five NCAA Championship winning games would be "memorable", however only two of the five are represented on this list. I also will be the first to admit that this list runs strongly to the more recent, rather than the past. Two reasons for that: 1. It is obviously more memorable if it happened a shorter time ago, and I'm fairly young so anything prior to the mid-1980s I only would remember after seeing it in video form to begin with. 2. The distinct lack of video/detailed play recaps of older games. There may have been a huge play that shaped the winning of the 1974 National Championship...but hell if I could find anything about it. Also, you will note that all of these plays are goals. In hockey, that just seems to be what people remember. I'm sure there were some incredible saves by goalies that helped win NCAA Championships, etc, but its hard to pull out an individual play or moment that is as memorable as a game winning, or at least game-changing goal. Also, as Minnesota fans we all know well that memorable moments don't all have to be positive moments. So you will see some soul crushing moments on this and following lists. I apologize ahead of time, I didn't like putting them in here anymore than you will like reliving them, but they happened, and unfortunately are quite memorable.
So without further rambling, I present the Top Ten (with two honorable mentions) Memorable Plays in Gopher Hockey History!
These two plays still had a huge impact on the Gopher Hockey annals, but weren't quite memorable enough to crack the top ten.
Mike Bleeping Legg.
In the 1996 Western Region Final in East Lansing, Michigan the #3 Seeded Gophers were playing the #2 seeded Michigan Wolverines for a trip to the NCAA Frozen Four. The Gophers had controlled the game early and had a 2-1 lead after the first period. In the second period, with Michigan on the power-play, the puck slid behind the net, where Mike Legg was waiting. He took the puck on his stick and waited for a Gopher defender to come challenge him. None ever did. He scooped the puck up on his stick, and while Gopher goalie Steve DeBus slid over to cover the pipe for a wraparound attempt, he never saw what would happen next coming.
The Wolverines would go on to beat the Gophers 4-3, and would defeat Boston University and a Don Lucia coached Colorado College team in the NCAA Championship game to win the national title.
Kessel Hears a Boo!
In January 2006, the #4 Ranked Gophers went to Madison to take on the #2 ranked Badgers in a series that would shape up who would finish at the top of the conference. Wisconsin lead the Gophers by four points coming into the weekend. The Gophers had been swept at home in December by then #1 ranked Badgers and were looking for revenge. Also looking for revenge was a freshman for the Gophers from Verona, Wisconsin named Phil Kessel. Kessel was hyped as the second coming of Sidney Crosby at this point in his career. After am amazing juniors career playing for a team in Madison, he spurned the hometown Badgers to play at Minnesota, setting up a situation where he was a Persona non Grata back in Wisconsin. He was booed every time he touches the puck in the series in Madison, and did not figure in the first game which was a 5-4 Gopher victory. Saturday night with the Gophers clinging to a 2-1 lead with under 8 minutes left in the third period, Kessel picked up the puck in his own zone, and was once again booed. He brought the puck across center, into the Badger zone and let rip a wrister that beat Badger goalie Shane Connelly and let out an even oulder torrent of boos. Kessel only encouraged them by placing his hand up to his ear as he skated back to celebrate with his teammates. The Gophers swept the series and were tied with the Badgers atop the WCHA after the series. The would go on to win the WCHA Regular Season Championship and the MacNaughton Cup. Unfortunately the 2005-06 season would end poorly for the Gophers while the Badgers would go on to win the National Championship.
#10 Irmen Rocks Mariucci
In the fall of 2005, the Gophers were playing the hated Badgers in a early game at Mariucci. Minnesota was ranked #4 in the nation and Wisconsin was #5. The Badgers took a 2-1 lead going into the third period, and the Gophers tied it early on a Gino Guyer goal. A few minutes later, Irmen was hauled down on a breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot. With a then Mariucci record 10,190 fans on their feet, Irmen gave the Gophers the lead. It would be the loudest Mariucci would be for quite a few years until one of our later nominees occurred.
#9 Three OT Thriller
In 2013 the Gopher women's hockey team was on a roll. They were a perfect 38-0 going into their NCAA Quarterfinal game at Ridder Arena against North Dakota and the Lamoureux sisters. Hannah Brandt and Amanda Kessel scored the first two goals for the Gophers. However North Dakota scored two of their own. So the game went into overtime. And then a second overtime. And then a third overtime. And almost a fourth overtime. Finally, Kelly Terry put back a rebound of a Mira Jalosuo shot from the point to win the game with just over a minute left in the third overtime, and put the undefeated Gophers into the NCAA Frozen Four at Ridder Arena the next weekend where they could finish the undefeated season and win the National Championship. Terry's goal begins at 0:53 seconds in the video below.
#8 Holy $#*&!
Just going to leave this one here. No additional comments needed.
#7 Holy Schmidt!!!
In the spring of 2012 the Gophers were trying to win their first MacNaughton Cup since 2007. It was the last series of the regular season and once again the hated Badgers were in town. The Gophers had a two point lead on UMD for first place. After Friday's night's disappointing 4-1 loss to Wisconsin, the Gophers needed to win on Saturday to clinch sole possession of the Cup. The Gophers trailed 1-0 going into the third period, but came out with fury in third. Erik Haula scored a highlight reel shorthanded goal to tie the game at 1-1, and then with just over 12 minutes to play, Nate Schmidt made the play of the season, and a goal that will be remembered for quite a while.
#6 Polish Leap!
While not remembered as much as the last goal from this game, the second to the last goal was pretty damn special as well. From sorrow to elation in just a few seconds, this goal sent me jumping and screaming like only two others have. Both of those we will see later on this list. But for right now, this is Matt Koalska's time to shine. The action starts at the 1:42 mark of the video below. Yah-hoo!!!
The 1989 NCAA Championship game from the old St. Paul Civic Center pitted the Gophers against Harvard. The Gophers had not won a national championship in ten years, and while several of Doug Woog's teams in the late 1980s had good chances, none ever got as far as this team. Less than 30 seconds into overtime with the game tied at 3, the Gophers came into the Harvard zone on a 4-3. Lance Pitlick passed off to Randy Skarda who staked in all alone on the Harvard goal. He ripped a shot that had it been one half inch further to the left would have won Minnesota the title. Instead.....clink.
#4 Neal Goes Head Over Heels
In the 1979 NCAA Championship game in Detroit, the Gophers were playing North Dakota. The game was tied at three late in the third period, when Freshman Neil Broten took the puck at center ice. He deked one North Dakota defender before getting tripped up by another's stick. As he went sliding down to the ice, he flipped the puck up and over the Sioux goalie and into the net. A classic goal by an all time great!
The 2007 WCHA Final Five Championship Game. Minnesota. North Dakota. Overtime. Sad Lammy. Pop-Pop. Game.
Once again this doesn't really need describing. If you have forgotten about Justin Holl's goal already you should be ashamed.
#1 AHHHHHHH! Potulny!
2002. Xcel Energy Center. St. Paul. Overtime again....just like 89. Lets let Wally take this one home....
So there's my list. If you disagree, go ahead and comment below. But I don't see how you can argue with #1...