Potulny Could've Sealed his Hobey Fate With 4-Goal Effort, Despite Loss
by Gregg Paul/CHN Correspondent
ST. PAUL, Minn. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that Minnesota forward Ryan Potulny wrapped up the Hobey Baker Award on Friday night, even though his team lost.
Among the other frontrunners, Chris Collins got hurt, and Wisconsin goalie Brian Elliott allowed four goals in a loss.
All the Potulny did was come up with a breathtaking, scintillating four-goal performance in the WCHA Final 5 semifinal against St. Cloud. The last of those goals came in the closing seconds, as Minnesota capped an amazing rally from 5-2 and 7-5 down.
Potulny, a junior center from Grand Forks, North Dakota, and a draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, almost single-handedly carried the Gophers, but his efforts were not enough as the Gophers fell 8-7 in overtime, when Matt Hartman scored at the 9:14 mark to end a wild and entertaining game.
"I was just fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time," Potulny said. Easy to be humble after an effort like that.
Potulny leads the nation in both goals scored with 38 and total points with 63. He is the first player to reach 38 goals in the NCAA since Todd White did it for Clarkson in 1996-97. When you consider his team is ranked No. 1, Potulny seems to be a good bet for the Hobey.
Even more noteworthy, his four goals started coming when his team was already down 5-2. You combine the clutch ability his brother used to exude at the 'U' with Ryan's pure talent, and it's a scary combination.
Trailing 5-2 early in the second period, Potulny notched his first goal of the night on the power play. A wicked one time blast from the right wing circle converting a cross slot pass from Phil Kessel ignited the furious Gopher rally.
A turnover in the Gopher zone forced by the Huskies Marty Mjelleli, led to a Brock Hooton goal that at least temporarily interrupted the Ryan Potulny Show and gave St. Cloud a 6-3 cushion.
Potulny scored his second goal of the night, just as a penalty to the Huskies Konrad Reeder expired. The Gophers cycled the puck down low and Potulny pounced on a rebound at the side of the net to make it a 6-4 game.
Gopher fans littered the ice with hats and beads as Potulny completed his hat trick with another power play goal with just 0.4 seconds remaining in the second period. Phil Kessel was camped behind the Huskie net and made a beautiful pass to Potulny at the right wing circle. Potulny somehow snuck the puck between goalie Bobby Goepfert and the near post and cut St. Cloud's lead to 6-5 heading into the third period.
Potulny's extra attacker goal with 15 seconds left, that ultimately tied it, was picture perfect. He camped out in his famous spot near the circle, and one-timed a wrister, picking a corner. The fact that St. Cloud's defense was so tired at that point that it couldn't keep up him, didn't take away from how heroic a feat it was.
However, the super human effort from Potulny was all for naught when Hartman banged a puck past Jeff Frazee, who appeared to have pulled away from the post and shot. The Hartman goal silenced the Gopher crowd and spoiled the great night for Potulny.
After the game, St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko was asked if he said anything to his player about Potulny, since he helped recruit him while an assistant with Minnesota.
"I told them he (Potulny) could score."
Quite the understatement, and easy to exude deadpan humor when you've won the game.
Despite the efforts of the offense, the Gophers own defensive lapses ultimately cost them the game.
"We didn't play well enough to win the game", said Potulny. "It's a tough loss to take, but it's on us and we didn't play well enough."
Minnesota coach Don Lucia added, "I just think it was one of those games tonight that pucks were going in. ... I would've bet a lot of money that it was going to be a 3-2 game."