Sunday, March 15, 2009


The Gophers made it six-for-six against St. Cloud this season, winning 3-0 at Mariucci Arena Saturday night to sweep the first round WCHA playoff series, advancing to the Final Five, and ending the Huskies' season.

Alex Kangas stopped all 34 St. Cloud State shots, while Ryan Stoa scored twice - the second into an empty net, and Jay Barriball added the other goal for the Gophers. Stoa assisted on the Barriball goal, and defenseman Cade Fairchild added two assists. Jase Weslosky stopped 18 Gopher shots in a losing cause.

The story of Saturday's game was the Gophers' defense. Although out shot significantly by the Huskies, the Gophers' defense rarely offered second chances. The defense collapsed on St. Cloud shots and cleared the puck. On the offensive side, the Gophers capitalized on what few chances they created. Had it not been for the solid play of Weslosky, the margin of victory would have been more significant.

We now move onto the Final Five next weekend in St. Paul. The Gophers are assured of a spot, as they have in every year since 1998 when they lost to UMD in the opening round. The field is also set, as no games went the full best-of-three.

So, the field is now set for next weekend's tournament:

Thursday, March 19:

  • #7 Minnesota-Duluth vs. #5 Minnesota - The Gophers tied and won the only two meetings against UMD this regular season.

Friday, March 20:

  • #1 North Dakota vs. UM/UMD - The Sioux swept the Gophers in Grand Forks and lost and tied the only two meetings against UMD at the DECC in November.
  • #2 Denver vs. #3 Wisconsin - Denver won all four regular season meetings

Now, for the all-important PairWise....The Gophers remained constant from Friday; still tied for 12th place with Ohio State and Princeton. Ohio State beat Alaska-Fairbanks to force a third game in the CCHA playoffs, while Princeton lost to Union, requiring a decisive third game in their ECAC series. Of the teams ahead of the Gophers, the following teams are either required to play decisive third games in their series tomorrow or have been eliminated:

  • #1 Boston University - Lost to Maine Saturday and will play Sunday
  • #6 Northeastern - Beat UMass Saturday and will play Sunday
  • #8(t) Vermont - Eliminated by Mass-Lowell
  • #8(t) New Hampshire - Eliminated by Boston College
  • #10 Miami - Lost to Northern Michigan Saturday and will play Sunday
  • #11 Cornell - Beat RPI Saturday and will play Sunday

The UMD Bulldogs are lurking right behind in 15th, so Thursday's game will mean a lot. We'll have more on the PairWise later in the week, but at first blush, the Gophers' biggest threat of missing the tournament - short of losing Thursday night - is one of the upstarts listed above winning their conference tournaments and stealing at-large bids from teams like the Gophers, Wisconsin, and UMD.

Personally, I believe the Gophers qualified for the tournament with Saturday's win, but we'll wait until next weekend to sort that out.

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