Wheeler's Chipshot Sinks Sioux
by Gregg Paul/CHN Reporter
Minnesota head coach Don Lucia said before the WCHA Final Five Championship game that, since everyone was proclaiming North Dakota to be the best team in college hockey, his team had no chance of winning the Broadmoor trophy.
His team took that quip to heart.
A physical, gritty, and at times chippy game that was a back-and-forth affair found itself in overtime before the tournament's most valuable player, Blake Wheeler, chased down a loose puck and chipped it past Phillippe Lamoureux to give the Gophers a 3-2 victory.
Wheeler dove headlong and somehow managed to flip the puck over Lamoureux's shoulder sending the WCHA record crowd of 19,463 into frenzy.
"I just took a whack at it," said Wheeler, who added to a hat trick in the semifinal. "I couldn't believe when the crowd went crazy as I didn't even see it go in."
Unfortunately for the Sioux it did go in, and, at least temporarily, put a damper on their post-Christmas resurgence.
"They played hard and made the play in overtime," said a melancholy Sioux coach Dave Hakstol, "and my hat's off to them, congratulations.
"It was a hard-fought game. It was probably everything it was billed to be, but I thought we wasted a little too much energy in the first half of the game killing off penalties and that took us out of our game."
Despite the early penalties, North Dakota kept up with the Gophers through one, and was able to trade goals until overtime.
"Playing in this WCHA Final Five championship is as good as it gets," Lucia said. "This reminded me a lot of the North Dakota game we had in 2004. That was one of the all time great games I've ever been involved with ... going toe to toe, the great players, the hard hitting right to the end, as was this."
But Lucia's compliments, though well founded, were irrelevant to the Sioux afterward.
"It is definitely disappointing right now," said North Dakota's Ryan Duncan. "It was a bitter pill to swallow when we saw them lift the Broadmoor Trophy. They just made one more play than us."
"This game might give the team more resolve and we have to learn from it and get better," said Hakstol.
"Every day we lay it on the line," said the Sioux's Taylor Chorney. "We came together as a group."