Rocky Mountain letdown
The positive spin on the Gophers' win-tie weekend at Colorado College is that they extended their unbeaten jag and took three out of a possible four points in a key WCHA series.
But don't expect to hear much about that from the players and coaches. Minnesota squandered a 3-0 lead after the first period by allowing four goals over the final forty minutes as the Tigers clawed back to a 4-4 overtime tie Saturday night at the World Arena. It was more than a disappointing finish to a game the Gophers had well in hand at one point -- it also meant they fell short of a share of the conference lead in the final series before the holiday break. With Denver's loss at North Dakota, a Minnesota win would have put them in a dead heat with the Pioneers atop the WCHA standings. Now, they're in second and won't play another conference game for over a month (January 11/12 vs. Alaska-Anchorage).
The one that got away: How did this happen? The Gophers led 3-0 after the first period and after winning a fine road game the night before, had high hopes of sealing their first conference sweep of the season. But as iffy as Colorado College has been on defense, the Tigers' high-octane offense -- which leads the league in goals scored with 65 -- pounced on some key Minnesota defensive errors to battle back for the tie.
Quick-strike artists: We knew two key points going into the weekend: CC scores only rarely in the first period (as expected the Tigers failed to light the lamp in the first either Friday or Saturday night); However, when they get it going, their offense can strike multiple blows with bewildering speed. It happened both nights. Friday night, it was two goals in a span of 1:41 in the second period. On Saturday, they struck again as fast as a Colorado blue norther: a pair of tallies in a span of 1:47 in the third that turned a 4-1 longshot into a 4-3 opportunity and, eventually, a point.
Up next: Now it's finals and home for the holidays for most of the Gophers. The exceptions are rookie defensemen Brady Skjei and Mike Reilly, who are off to the U.S. Junior National Team prospect camp. If they advance, they'll spend their holidays practicing, playing and flying to Finland and then to the World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia.
Former Gophers hockey coach Brad Buetow sits with his wife Cecilia and their new golden retriever, Sunny.Absent friends: It's always good to come to Colorado because so many Gopher fans and those associated with the program have transplanted here. We counted over a hundred Maroon and Gold jerseys in the stands both nights and a number of additional Gopher fans, without the colors, were at both games, too.
I enjoyed spending time with longtime friends Brad and Cecilia Buetow, who have lived in Colorado Springs since Brad coached Colorado College. Brad, who coached the Gophers from 1980 to 1985, still holds the best winning percentage in Gopher hockey history with 68.9 percent.
Cecilia is a retired educator who devotes considerable time to charitable causes. Brad is still active in hockey and is doing very well in real estate in partnership with his brother, Bart. It was great to see them on what may be the last trip to Colorado Springs for a while.
Jump back frequently during the holidays for updates on all things Gopher hockey as well as insider info on other hockey topics. We'll see you on the air again for the Mariucci Classic December 29-30!