West Regional Notebook
by Damien Goddard/Columnist
Minnesota fans were out in force around Denver's 16th Street Mall on Friday night. Of course, few, if any, symbolize Gopher Athletics more than former coach and Fox Sports color man Doug Woog.
Woog made an appearance at Denver's ESPN Zone on Friday night along with a couple of dozen Gopher boosters. Woog is like the Pope of College Hockey. He knows everyone, shakes hands with fans who introduce themselves and patiently answers questions. He's a true ambassador for the sport.
Of course, one the DU faithful had to tweak him a little and asked him point blank, "How many goals do you think Air Force will win by tomorrow?"
Caught off guard for a few seconds, he laughed heartily, and pronounced, "Michigan was the real upset possibility this weekend. They love to be the underdog."
One of the questions this weekend is whether or not any players on the ice for Air Force today will become pilots.
At the Air Force Academy, pilots aren't selected until the 100th night of their Senior year. Three Seniors on this year's successful Air Force Basketball team made the Undergraduate Pilot Training Program.
Academy students accepted into the program train at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
Attendance for the Minnesota-Air Force game appeared to be around 11,000 fans in the seats. The atmosphere was ratcheted up significantly when Jeff Hajner scored the first goal for Air Force at the 9:55 of the first period. Even the jaded Denver and CC fans got into the act joining a very vocal Air Force cheering section up from Colorado Springs.
As the entertaining game progressed, it appeared that Air Force would pull off a monumental upset. Leading 3-1 in the third period the Pepsi Center was buzzing.
However, after the third Air Force goal, Minnesota really stepped up the intensity and the Gophers' second goal on the power play was a result. You could feel the enthusiasm for Air Force leave the building as the inevitable Gopher comeback was well under way.
Now it was the Gopher fans time to party, but you just had a feeling that it was more relief than unbridled joy.
Air Force coach Frank Serratore stoutly defended his players and said that it was the Gophers' intensity rather than Air Force doing anything different in the third period.
It was Air Force strategy to not give Minnesota any easy goals and he felt that they achieved their objective. Minnesota had to earn a hard fought victory.
All season long the Falcons had worked to become "the most difficult team in the country to play." On Saturday afternoon in the Pepsi Center, the entire country witnessed Air Force's determination.
Serratore said that there were no moral victories from today's game, but 11,000 fans from both teams will probably disagree.