Wheeler, Gophers Reach New Heights
by Theresa Spisak/CHN Reporter
ST. PAUL, Minn. When Minnesota coach Don Lucia was asked Friday night how he planned to try and stop North Dakota, he quipped that his team didn't have a chance, as per the general consensus.
While utilizing an atypical defensive style of play to mostly neutralize North Dakota's top line — the previously red-hot Ryan Duncan, Jonathan Toews and T.J. Oshie — Lucia's Gophers beat the Fighting Sioux 3-2 in overtime off the stick of Friday's hero, Blake Wheeler, to win the Broadmoor Trophy for the first time in three years.
The sophomore center, the fifth overall pick in the NHL Draft three years ago, picked up a loose puck off the boards and while falling to the ice being defended by Brian Lee, one-handed the puck up over the glove of Sioux netminder Philippe Lamoureux (38 saves).
It was a brilliant highlight-reel play, capping a four-goal weekend, for a player that who may have finally reached college superstar status.
"I just took a whack at it and I couldn't believe when the crowd started going crazy; I didn't see it go in," said Wheeler. "I had no clue that it would ever go where it went."
North Dakota had a chance to win the game on the power play, going 2-for-5 as compared to Minnesota's 0-for-8 (with one goal disallowed), but the bounces ended up going the way of the Gophers.
"They capitalized on one more opportunity than we did," said Sioux forward Ryan Duncan. "We had our chances tonight. I didn't think the scoring opportunities were that far off. We just missed a couple opportunities, especially late in the game. I thought in the last five minutes we had a couple chances to win it."
Still, Lucia's defensive scheme — and matching top line against top line — worked to earn those extra chances.
"Kyle [Okposo]'s line had to try to shut down Toews' line; between him and [Ryan] Stoa and especially Kyle down low, we thought that was really an important matchup for us," said Lucia. "If they could neutralize that line, we were hoping that somebody else, another line, would emerge and score and that's what happened with Blake scoring and Ben Gordon scoring tonight."
NOTES: The 19,463 in attendance marked the largest crowd for a hockey game in the history of the WCHA. ... The 88,900 in attendance for the entire weekend surpassed the old record of 87,579 set last year. ... All-Tournament team: Philippe Lamoureux, UND, G; Taylor Chorney, UND, D; Mike Vannelli, MN, D; Jake Dowell, WI, F; Jonathan Toews, UND, F; Blake Wheeler, MN, F; Blake Wheeler, MVP. ... Wheeler's game-winning goal was reminiscent of Neal Broten's 1979 National Championship-winning goal, also against North Dakota.