March 21, 2008 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Howe About That

Minnesota Advances to WCHA Semis

by Dane DeKrey/Staff Writer

ST. PAUL, Minn. — At a young age, University of Minnesota senior forward Mike Howe, a St. Cloud, Minn., native, was faced with a dilemma: cheer with his hometown or with his heart.

"You know, growing up I was a big Gopher fan, but you know, I was also a big Husky fan," said Howe. "It was a tough decision, but like I said earlier, I was always a Gopher fan."

And with Howe scoring Minnesota's game winning goal with 12.7 seconds remaining in the third period in the WCHA Final Five play-in game to beat St. Cloud State, 3-2, Gopher fans everywhere couldn't be happier with Howe's choice.

But for Howe, he knew all along where he belonged.

"I always knew that if I had the opportunity to play here [Minnesota] that I was going to come, and when I was deciding where to go this was a better fit for me," Howe said. "There's just so much tradition and pride that comes with this program that it was too hard for me to say no; and I'm glad I made the decision I did."

This year, however, has been an uncharacteristic one for the Gophers, as time and again the team struggled — on and off the ice. First it was the academic ineligibility of Mike Carman, and season-ending injury to Ryan Stoa. Then it was the midseason departure by Kyle Okposo. And just last week, the team lost senior leader Tom Pohl to a tragic head injury.

The players that did remain, talented ones with impressive resumes and NHL Draft pick credentials, struggled to pick up the scoring slack.

Despite this, the team has continued to battle.

"We didn't have the greatest regular season," said Howe. "But we always tried to focus on getting better every day and get focused on making it to the playoffs. Right now, we're taking good strides towards playing our best hockey and as a senior it's sweet to see everybody kind of putting it all together at the right time."

On Thursday night, in front of a sellout crowd of 19,232, Howe put the exclamation point on what is turning into a late-season surge by Minnesota.

According to head coach Don Lucia, a bounce in his team's favor is long overdue.

"Tonight's the kind of game we wanted to have," Lucia said. "We wanted to make the best of our chances and fortunately tonight we got a good bounce and scored the game winner. But you know what, this teams deserves a few bounces because we haven't had a lot this year."

The bounce that made the difference started from a slapshot from the point, then ricocheted off the boards behind the goal of St. Cloud State goaltender Jase Weslosky, and ended up near the left faceoff circle and onto Howe's stick.

From there, Howe took over.

"When I saw the puck come to me you know I figured the goalie would be sliding across and there was a lot of traffic in front, so my main focus was to get it on net," Howe said, describing the fracas in front moments before his goal. "And then the puck came to my stick and I saw his five-hole open up and I just slide it right through and that's that."

In a season of that's not thats, tonight, for Howe and Minnesota, that was that.

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