Game Notes: (3/20 - WCHA Finals) Minnesota vs. North Dakota
[Better late than never I suppose. Here it is]
MINNESOTA vs. NORTH DAKOTA (WCHA FINALS):
It was a game that had all the earmarks of a full-blown playoff game and the hype to go with it. It featured just about everything that fans could’ve asked for.
The premiere match started with a torrid pace to the game and lots of physical play. The Fighting Sioux brought their physical game early and often. The game featured several excellent one-on-one battles throughout. One of the best matchups early in the game featured NHL two prospects: UND sophomore Zach Parise (NJ) and towering freshman defenseman Jake Taylor (NYR). Parise and Taylor would wreak havoc for their respective opposing team for much of the night in their unique ways. While the Parise/Taylor matchup was one to watch, several others were also worth watching as the bad blood between the two WCHA powerhouses came to a head often in the game. At the 9:24 mark, Minnesota junior defenseman Keith Ballard (PHX) and UND senior David Lundbohm would be called off for matching roughing minors with Lundbogm being assessed an extra two minutes. One of the best power plays in the nation would go to work as the Fighting Sioux had the task of trying to kill the Gophers’ potent power play, but not before another roughing outbreak. This time it was UND junior defenseman Matt Jones (PHX) and Minnesota senior Troy Riddle (STL) would earn a trip to the penalty box. With a 4-on-3 power play, the Gophers went to work. Eleven seconds later at the 10:39 mark, they would draw first blood. It began with some nice passing around the perimeter. The puck eventually ends up on the stick of sophomore Gino Guyer (DAL) deep in the UND zone. After corraling the puck from behind the goal line near the corner boards, he brings it out and makes a nice goal mouth dish over towards senior Grant Potulny (OTT) and freshman Danny Irmen (MIN), both of whom are parked just outside the UND crease. Guyer’s pass actually went under UND junior defenseman Andy Schneider’s (PIT) stick. Potulny made a terrific and unselfish move of lifting UND freshman defenseman Matt Smaby’s (TB) stick to allow the puck to continue sliding over to Irmen rather than make a play himself. This allowed Irmen to gain possession. Who then sweeps the puck by an out of position Jake Brandt and into the net for the score. Guyer and sophomore defenseman Chris Harrington would draw the assists. Being behind didn’t slow the Fighting Sioux down as they kept coming and battling. At the 15:09 mark, the rough stuff would earn two more players trips to the penalty box as Guyer and UND junior Brandon Bochenski (OTT) would exchange pleasantries. The four-on-four play lasted all of eleven seconds as Riddle gets called off for a high-stick after nearly taking off the head of Matt Smaby with it. With the ensuing four-on-three power play, teh Fighting Sioux went to work to tie the game. At the 16:57 mark, freshman Drew Stafford would get UND on the board, thanks to a brilliant play by sophomore Zach Parise. It all began when Parise skated into the Minnesota zone literally untouched. Minnesota senior forward Matt Koalska (NSH) and freshman defenseman Jake Taylor (NYR) both had a chance to take Parise off of the puck but failed to. With his head up and looking like he was going to shoot, Parise instead opted to dish the puck over to the oncoming Stafford, who was driving the net and fending off Minnesota junior defenseman Judd Stevens. Parise did an excellent job of faking out Minnesota freshman goalie Kellen Briggs as well as timed the centering pass perfectly right onto Stafford’s stick. All Stafford had to do was tip it in for the score. Parise drew the lone assist on Stafford’s power play goal. The furious pace to the game continued to the final buzzer of the opening period.
The second period saw a continuation of the hate from almost the get-go. Just 58 seconds in Stafford and Taylor would be assessed matching roughing minors. Once again creating a four-on-four situation. The torrid pace of the opening period slowed a bit but the showing of no love lost for one another didn’t. One area that would have a tremendous impact on the game would be turnovers. It would be a UND turnover that would lead to Minnesota’s next goal at the 4:09 mark. UND junior Quinn Fylling’s clearing attempt ends up going right to Minnesota sophomore defenseman Peter Kennedy instead. Kenndy fires a low, hard shot from the UND blueline that UND junior Jake Brandt makes a nice pad save on. However, Brandt also gives up a bug rebound in the process. As Brandt tries to come out to smother the puck to get a stoppage in play, Minnesota senior Jon Waibel beats him to the loose puck. Waibel then wheels around the sprawled out Brandt and wrists it into the open net behind Brandt for the score. Kennedy would draw the lone assist. At the 6:54 mark, Waibel appeared to have extended the Gophers lead. It began with an odd-man rush going into the UND zone, when Taylor’s penalty for clotheslining high-stick on UND’s David Lundbohm had expired. UND’s Matt Jones did an excellent job of hustling to get back to try and even things up. Minnesota’s Jon Waibel, who was trailing the play, almost made it a 3-on-1 but Jones managed to catch up with the attacking Minnesota players. As the play gets to the UND net area, Waibel gained puck possession and appeared to have scored, thanks to a great play by junior Barry Tallackson (NJ). Tallackson danced around UND junior defenseman Nick Fuher before dishing it off to the late arriving Waibel. However, as Tallackson was jostling for positioning in front of Brandt, he was called for being in the crease that would negate the goal. Tallackson also ended up bumping Brandt, much to the anger of the UND bench. So the game stood at 2-1 Minnesota. At the 8:50 mark, the Fighting Sioux would tie the game yet again, and once again it would involve some nice playmaking by Zach Parise that would make the goal happen. It began with Bochenski
making a nice dish to an oncoming Parise deep in the Minnesota zone. Parise fends off Kennedy to corral the puck near the backboards. He makes a nice pass to the front of the Minnesota net. The pass makes it way to the right of freshman netminder Kellen Briggs and ends up ricocheting off of Kennedy’s skate blade just outside the front of the Minnesota crease. Bochenski then spots the loose puck while fending off Guyer in front of the crease. Bochenski then manages to get a stick on the puck and wrists it into the open left side of the net for the score. Parise and Schneider would draw the assists. At about the 14:30 mark, a scary moment for the Fighting Sioux happened when Parise is high sticked in the throat area by Minnesota sophomore Thomas Vanek (BUF). Parise was down on the ice for several moments before he was able to get back up and skate to the UND bench under his own power. The angry UND benched wanted a major penalty to be assessed to Vanke but had to settle for a minor instead. Parise showed no effects of the high-stick for the rest of the game and was able to come out for his next shift. At the 16:47 mark, Parise would exact some revenge as he would give UND their first and only lead of the game. The play began when Parise’s centering pass ended up htting then shattering Minnesota sophomore defenseman Chris Harrington’s stick. With the loose puck inside the faceoff circle to the right of Briggs, Bochenski picks it up and passes it back to an open Nick Fuher. Fuher spins then launches a low slapper toward the Minnesota net. Briggs makes a nice pad save on the shot but gives up a rebound. Parise then races toward the loose puck from near the right corner boards to gain possession. In the process, he beats the stickless Harrington to the puck, before spinning to fire a low shot that beats Briggs via 5-hole for the score. Bochenski and Fuher would draw the assists on Parise’s goal. The score was now 3-2 UND. With the lead, the Fighting Sioux had a little more jump in their step and looked to be re-energized. The Fighting Sioux began to relentlessly attack the Gophers and pepering shots on Briggs, but would be unable to extend their lead. At the 19:03 mark, Fuher would take a hooking penalty that gave Minnesota an opportunity to tie the game late in the period on the power play. When the buzzer sounded to signal the end of the period, the Gophers would have roughly half of their power play remaining going into the final stanza.
The third period began with the Gophers on the power play but UND successfully killed it off. At the 2:08 mark, the Gophers would get the equalizer off of a UND turnover. UND sophomore defenseman Matt Greene (EDM) was attempting to make a pass to Parise in the neutral zone when Vanek makes a nice intercept. He then proceeds into the UND zone towards the UND net. Vanek does a nice job of freezing Brandt in a one-on-one situation. Brandt was then forced to make the first move. Vanek wheeled around Brandt and slid the puck behind him into the open net for the score. The unassisted tally tied the game at 3-3. The third period saw the physical play pick up early and the momentum shifted almost constantly. At the 4:48 mark, the Gophers would take the lead for good. It all began with a draw won by Riddle. The loose puck was then pickd up by Koalska near the boards. He dishes it off to Harrington who takes a high, fluttering shot toward the UND net. The puck gets deflected off of Matt Jones’ stick and ricochets off of Riddle’s glove as he tries to bat it down. The puck drops to the ice behind Riddle. Riddle then turns around and pokes it between Brandt’s pads. Brandt appeared to have made the save when he squeezed his pads together, but instead the puck trickled behind him and into the net. Riddle would be credited with the goal, with Harrington and Koalska drawing the assists. The game featured some excellent checks. Two of note was Drew Stafford’s check on Grant Potulny early in the period. The other was Matt Greene rocking Troy Riddle’s world around the 12:30 mark. Before Matt Greene lowered the boom on Riddle, he would be sent off on a slashing call for a slash on Vanek to slow him down on a developing Minnesota odd man rush at the 7:40 mark. With the Gophers on the power play and leading the game, for the Fighting Sioux it was desperation time. The goal would be the result of a terrific individual effort by Brandon Bochenski. It began with a nice pick of Keith Ballard’s passing attempt. As he is about to bolt out of the UND zone with the puck, Bochenski bowls over Ballard. He then proceeds to skate out of the UND with a full head of steam making a beeline to the Minnesota net. Going one-on-one with Briggs, Bochenski does a nice job of getting Briggs out of position before firing a backhanded flip high inside the near post for the score. Bochenski, who is not noted for his skating speed, showed some excellent improvement in that area on that particular play. Parise and Smaby would draw the assists on Bochenski’s equalizer. The pace of the game continued to escalate as both teams were determined to win the game. At the 13:58 mark, the Gophers would once again take the lead. The goal comes courtesy of some great work by freshman Danny Irmen. It all began with Irmen having puck possession deep in the UND zone. Irmen does a nice of job of not only tying up UND junior defenseman Andy Schneider, but also tying up freshman defenseman Robbie Bina. Irmen ends up losing possession but there to pick it up is senior Grant Potulny (OTT). Potulny skates behind the UND net towards the right boards before turning around to change directions to avoid a UND defender. He then makes a nice wraparound move to slide it into the net via Brandt’s five-hole for the score. Irmen would draw the assist on Potulny’s goal. At the 15:48 mark, things get real heated between Minnesota junior defenseman Keith Ballard (PHX) and UND freshman forward Chris Porter (CHI). Both would be assessed minors. Ballard would be called for a rough while Porter would be assessed for a hold. With Minnesota defenseman Chris Harrington already off for a high-sticking call, the Fighting Sioux remained on the power play. At about the 16 minute mark, UND head coach Dean Blais decides to pull Brandt to make it a two-man advantage on their power play. The Gophers do an excellent job of getting in the way of passing attempts and limiting UND’s scoring chances. In one of the most bizarre plays one will ever see, Brandt is inserted back in net, on the fly when Harrington’s penalty expires. As regulation time winded down, the Fighting Sioux were showing some real urgency to get the game tied up to force overtime. But the Gophers were not about to surrender another equalizer and played to win the game in regulation.
In a game that definitely lived up to the hype it was a well-fought battle by both teams. Minnesota proved once again, that it’s not how you start but how you play late in the season (including playoffs) that determines how good you are and can be. Minnesota did an excellent job of keeping up with UND and sticking to their game plan. While it could be said that UND won the physical battles, it was Minnesota who won the war. Both teams showed why they are two of the best in the nation. If anyone had any doubts to Zach Parise’s skill and playmaking, they need only to look at this game to be convinced that he is indeed the real deal. Parise was far and away UND’s best player and arguably the best player of the game. Both of these teams could conceivably meet again in the Frozen Four, likely in the semi-finals that preceed the national title game.
No doubt, great work. I saw most of this game and you didn't miss a beat. Zach has been awesome all year, but the unsung hero on UND has to be Branden Bochenski...he is gonna fit right in with the offensive talent the Sens already have. Freshman Danny Irmen has quickly become my favorite Gopher(not only for homer reasons being a Wild prospect). He was all over the place all tournement, scoring timely goals, killing penalties, and bringing much needed grit to the table. The amazing thing about the Gopher's success versus UND and UMD is that they only had one reg. season win vs them out of eight tries. Couldn't have said it better on how the regular season means little unless you step it up when it really counts...can't say enough about the job Don Lucia has done. He sure has a knack for motivating the boys at the right time.
Nice work! I look forward to your NCAA Tourney analysis.