Monday, March 15, 2010

Gophers' Season Ends in GF

The season ended for the Gophers up in Grand Forks Sunday night as North Dakota brutalized the Gophers 4-1 to take the best-of-three game series and advance to the Final Five, as they have done each year since 2003. The Gophers, on the other hand, will stay at home during the Final Five for the first time since losing to UMD in March of 1998.

Jason Gregoire's goal with just over three minutes remaining in the second period broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Siouxies a lead they would never relinquish. The third period showed how drained the Gophers were after being battered by UND all night long. The Sioux salted the game away with two tallies in the third and out-shot Minny 29-19 for the game.

With the Gophers buried in the PairWise rankings, there was no chance of them making the NCAA Tournament absent a run in the Final Five. That meant they had to get past North Dakota in the first round, and it was just not in the cards.

Give the Fighting Sioux credit for setting a physical tone in this one. They out-shot the Gophers 13-2 in the opening period and established a physical presence. Minnesota was beaten up throughout the game and simply ran short of energy in the end.

What follows in the next few paragraphs may be construed as sour grapes by some. However, I must say that I have a bit of a bug up my ass about dirty play and high hits in hockey. Sunday's game featured plenty of these in the second period alone and one hit in particular really stuck in my craw.

In the second period, UND's frequent legal offender Matt Frattin attempted to put Gopher defenseman Kevin Wehrs through the boards with a viscous hit to the head, resulting in a major penalty. Shockingly, two things occurred immediately thereafter:
  • The North Dakota fans gave Frattin a standing ovation as he left the ice for the penalty box as Wehrs lay somewhat motionless on the ice and were visibly happy with the cheap shot. That was predictable.
  • The officials called Frattin for a major penalty for contact to the head but did not eject him from the game. That is simply inexcusable. If ever there were an attempt to injure, that was it. The refs blew this one big-time.
Minutes later, Brad Malone hit Minny defenseman Nick Leddy with a late knee to the thigh which staggered Leddy. No penalty was whistled. The Gopher defenseman had released the puck seconds before the contact. I know players are instructed to finish their checks, but that was ridiculous. Later in the stanza, Ben Blood bull-charged the Gopher net, collided with Alex Kangas, and knocked his mask off. Kangas responded with a shot to the face, and guess who received the only penalty called on the play? That's right - Kangas! The Sioux scored the go-ahead goal seconds after the power play ended but before the Gopher player serving the penalty, Josh Birkholz, could join the play in the long-change period zone. Absolute. Putrid. Officiating.

The UND fans showed their true class in the wake of the Frattin hit. It was disgusting to say the least. Anyone with a cursory knowledge of hockey knows that those types of hits - leading with the head or elbow and leaving your feet to do so - are verboten in the game. Still, these idiots cheered like it was free grinder night in the Forks.

Of course, Frattin figured prominently in the outcome of the game, scoring the one which salted it away. That he shouldn't have even been in the game after his hit on Wehrs is academic.

There will be plenty of time for a post-mortem of a monumentally disappointing Gopher season, and mine will appear after next weekend's Final Five. However, this one leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Elsewhere Around the League:
WCHA Final Five Matchups:
  • Thursday Night: UMD vs.North Dakota
  • Friday: UMD/North Dakota vs. Denver; St. Cloud State vs. Wisconsin 


  1. As a UND fan, I must say the hit Frattin delivered was problematic. While I do not know the rules as well as the officials, it did seem that hit was over the top. My initial thoughts were that it should have been an ejection. I hope that Wehrs is alright as he was not visible the rest of the night. However, the hit on Kangas was actually UM's fault as the defensemen knocked Blood into him. The review clearly shows this and the officials got this one right on. You are right, your commentary did begin to sound like sour grapes, but you do have a point on the Frattin hit. It will be different w/o UM at the Final Five. Any thoughts on the future of Lucia?

  2. The league officials will review the Frattin hit and determine that he simply was jumping over a lawn mower and microwave that was thrown on the ice.

    I love this (from in April 2009)...

    GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- University of North Dakota junior forward Matt Frattin has been dismissed from the hockey team for violating team rules.

    Head coach Dave Hakstol said Frattin was arrested and charged with driving under the influence on Wednesday.

    Frattin had another run-in with police last month. He was given a 10-day suspended sentence, fined $225 and put on probation for a year in an incident in which he and a former UND player were accused of throwing dinnerware, a kitchen table and a lawnmower onto a street.

    Hakstol says Frattin's status with the team might be revisited before the 2010-11 season.

    Maybe the final paragraph should read:
    "Hakstol says Fratten will be back with the team this coming season in the event UND is struggling by Christmas break."

    Stay classy Hakstol.

  3. As a fan of the WCHA (and no particular team) - Lucia should stay. He has had one bad season in his tenure at UM. If he repeats it again next year, then we can revisit this discussion. However for now, he should stay and have the support of the AD, his players, and the fans. If the trend continues, then maybe it is worth reviewing next year. Until then, sit tight.

    I am reminded of when UW was performing below expectations earlier this year - fans in Madison were calling for Eaves to be fired - of course, this argument is silly - the Badgers are now ranked 3 and will make a run for a second championship in 4 years. Teams go up and down over the course of a season. The Gophers had some high points over the season.

    It is impossible these days to have a top tier team every year - that goes for the Gophers or any other team.

    I also agree that the Gophers (and their fans!) will be missed at the Final Five - I have come to enjoy the banter between the Gopher and Sioux fans - hopefully the fans will show up and root on the Bulldogs.

  4. You are right that Lucia should stay, but really he has had two bad or at least less than good seasons. This will be the second year in row no NCAA appearance. I think that this will equal bad season in many people's mind. However, lets not forget what Lucia has done since leaving CC for the land of 10,000 lakes.

    I am glad to see you cheer for the Bulldogs with a former Sioux coach at the helm. Scott Sandelin has done a great job with that team. UMD is a perfect example of a school that propbaly cannot realistically be expected to challenge for the Broadmore/McNaughton every year, but his tenure shows the ability to be a part of that discussion regularly enough.

    Let's face it, with UM and Wisconsin's resources, they will be expected to be more competetive year in and year out. The same is true for UND, who has a cult following. I personally as a Sioux grad, love being a part of that cult.

    Bottom line, Lucia deserves another year. He is a proven leader and winner. I wish him and the Gopher nation the best. I always have a diffuculty cheering on the Gophers (its that Sioux thing), I know that Gopher success is ultimately better for the Sioux.

  5. At what point do we just start accepting mediocrity? This is the third year in a row Lucia's squad has performed well-below expectations. I applaud his accomplishments here but it is time for a fresh face and new direction. It is time to bring in someone with a new philosophy and coaching style (preferably someone that can build a "team" that has a physical presence).

    Of course nothing will be done as we're stuck with a gutless AD who is happy to shell out a contract extension to a football coach with a career 7-17 Big Ten record.

    In lieu of the Gopher's absence at the Final Five, at least we can watch the basketball team on Friday!

    Welcome to the big city Flickertail fans... Looking forward to your XXXL hockey jerseys, green beads, and Miller Lite breath on West 7th Thursday!

  6. Ah, another pissed off Gopher fan - waaaaaahhhhhh!

  7. I agree with you as a Sioux fan that Frattin should have been tossed from the game and I do hope that Kevin Wehrs is okay, but to say you knew what Matt Frattin's intent was is laughable,(no one does but Matt Frattin), hockey is a physical game and when rivals play the physicality and emotions go up on both sides, plus he doesn't have a history of these types of hits in the three years he has played at UND. (whether the WCHA suspends him that is up for them to decide, but they probably should with the amount of inuries sustained this year). But to paint the Sioux fans at the Ralph last night as classless is far fetched. Were you there? NO. The fans cheered for the scrum after the hit just like in any college arena, but you forget to mention that the fans also cheered for Wehrs once he was helped to feet and was able to skate off. The officiating was not very good for either side but Lucia and/or Hakstol could have gotten a new crew for the third game if they were unhappy. I also do think you need to leave the Frattin off ice incidents alone, let it go!!! You have been harping on it since he came back, why does it bother you so much as a Gopher fan? You also have made comments about the Sioux holding the 5th spot in the pairwise when you said "how ?" It is a mathmatical formula, there is no conspiracy if that is what you are hinting at. Your team got beat and the season is over, it sucks.... unfortunately if we are going to make assumptions about fanbases then there are some Gopher fans that feel that is a God given right that their team is in the Final Five and the NCAAs every year, I would hope you are not one of those fans but maybe not...Just try to take off the Maroon and Gold colored glasses once in while before lumping everyone of us together as Sioux fans.

  8. I want to respond to the 4:36 comment from "Anonymous" a bit and make a few statements. I refer to Frattin's past off-ice issues repeatedly because he is a multiple offender. He was involved in two off-ice incidents over the summer and was "kicked off" the team. He was brought back by Hakstol when the team was listless and one doesn't have to hazard a guess why he was reinstated. This has proven to be common place at UND. The Sioux have been involved in a litany of off-ice incidents (minor, admittedly) under Dave Hakstol, but a culture of permissiveness has been created in Grand Forks. As to Frattin's intent, yes, I don't know exactly what he meant to do. However, to watch multiple replays of the hit, one can only guess that he really meant to hurt Wehrs. Period. Enough said. Since the puck was gone and he did have time to take a few more strides, Frattin could have delivered a very hard and clean check without leaving his feet and leading with his fists, but he chose not to. I admit that I may have taken a few shots at Frattin's off-ice behavior (I mean, tossing lawn mowers and kitchen tables into the street is kind of funny, no?), but the bottom line is that the guy would not have been on the ice for the Sioux this season had the team staggered. Unlike many Gopher fans, I consider myself a reasoned one. Yes, I kind of got used to playing in the Final Five (they haven't missed one since 1998 and had passed the first round 31 of the last 32 years prior to last night), and my comments may reflect a little disappointment, but those who know me are aware that I have absolutely no tolerance for dirty play in hockey, whether my side is initiating it or receiving it. That's why the Frattin play bugged me so much last night, and that's why I commented as such. Sorry to paint Sioux fans with a broad brush, but I saw what I saw. Thanks for reading and keep commenting.

  9. Hey. This rivalry would not be fun without games like this past weekend. Hopefully, Wehrs is okay and this will only add to the rivalry. However, to say that culture of permisiveness has been created may be a bit of an overstatement. I do not see any major difference between UND or any other DI athletics program. I am not saying it is alright, just that the culture is with all athletics, not just UND. Further, Frattin paid a price for his conduct and in light of his acquittal, it (punishment) was at least adequate.

    While I think you (Brian) spend too much time taking shots at Frattin, he did bring this on himself to some degree. Also, lets not forget that a jury aquitted Frattin of the latest charge and therefore you should probably not waste any further time on it.

    Have fun and comment on!

    Go Sioux!

  10. As a hockey fan that has sat at North Dakota games in each of Englestad Arena, the Xcel Energy Center, and various NCAA sites, I'd like to comment on the "painting" of Sioux program and fans as described above.

    Brian is completely accurate in his comments. I can't even begin to list the amount of incidents I have seen both on and off the ice, things that simply to do not happen with any other college hockey programs. I can't explain why. Whether it's cheap shots on the ice, or lewd fan behavior off of it, these types of things always tend to happen at Sioux hockey games.

    Of course not all Sioux players play this way, and fans behave this way, but the fact of the matter is a majority of them do. That is why I think Brian's description of Sunday's events is completely accurate.

    You didn't need to be in the arena to hear the ovation that Fratton received after his cheap shot. You could clearly hear it on television, and I have heard it before while in attendance at other games.

    If this was a one-off incident, then I'm sure all of us could forget this. However, it's not.

    Classless, indeed.

  11. I am not a Gopher fan but follow college hockey closely and have been to many college hockey games, including one at the "Ralph" and many at the Final Five. Without question, the Sioux fans are the most classless I have ever encountered. The classless way they play on the ice compliments their fan base. I went to a game with a Wisconsin fan and she had to endure being called a bitch and got hit with beer bottles. I understand college hockey is all they have (not counting the Lawrence Welk Musium and the Peace Garden) but how about cheering for your team in a respectful manner?

    Sioux fans, please be responsible while in the big city this weekend and try to come home with a couple of dollars to contribute towards a new non-racist jersey that will be mandated by the NCAA soon.

  12. I will make just a couple points. Yes, Lucia need to step down (I would say he should be fired but our AD doesn't have the nuts to do it). I consider the U of M to be one of the elite college hockey programs in the Nation and 3 sub par years in a row is enough. Look at other major college sport programs and see how long they put up with losing (Note Dame and Michigan football are good examples). The fact is that he is not getting the most out of his recruits and the effort is not there night in and night out. I Hate the Sioux but only because they are our biggest rival. I also respect what the do almost every year. On Friday night they were up 3 to zero in the first and one would think that the Gophers would at elast be pissed off enough to try and hit someone. No, we skated around like high school girls as the Sioux kicked our butt physically and won the game 6-0. As for Sunday, they just beat the crap out of us and won easily. I respect the way the Sioux play the game, not including the dirty hits. I can't tell you how many times I have said I wish we played more physical. I must admitt, when it was obvious that we were going to lose, I wanted a Gopher player to take a run at one of their players......stand up for Wehrs and let UND know they can't just play dirty without payback.

    I love the Rivalry but I am getting sick and tired of the Sioux always getting the last laugh.

    See ya at the Final 5.

  13. Ok after reading Brian's last post and the last 12 comments I had no doubt the arguement of I saw Sioux fans do this at the Xcel center and they did this at the Ralph and they did this to someone I know at the Old Englested, give it a break!!!! If those things really happened to you as an individual or someone you know I apologize on behalf of the Sioux fans but to say that an entire fan base is classless is just asinine. I have gone to countless WCHA games in different arenas and there are a-holes involved with every fanbase, just like the Gopher fans are labeled as arrogant I have met some that are and know some that are quite knowledgeable and humble for that matter, in realizing that their team and history is not as great as some make it out to be.
    As far as labeling the hit on Wehrs as dirty...please define a dirty hit.... could Wehrs see him coming?? Yes he could, did Wehrs keep his head up?? No he didn't, rule number one when playing hockey with hitting allowed, KEEP YOUR HEAD UP. Should have Frattin been suspended??? Yes for driving his shoulder into the facemask of Wehrs in a season where head injuries have been a very serious issue. A dirty or cheap hit?? No I would have to disagree because Wehrs could see it coming, in my defintion a dirty hit would be where a player has his back or side to the incoming player, just my two cents and I know I will get crucificied for this but just try to think hypothetically if this was at Mariucci and Hegelson does the same hit to Jason Gregoire or Ben Blood or who-ever and the same wrestling match happens does Gopher nation boo Seth Hegelson? No they would cheer him the same way and then they would also cheer for the Sioux player the same way the Sioux fans cheered for Wehrs when he left the ice and hoping he was going to be okay. My overall point is don't let the a-hole fans on each side of the rivalary ruin it for the rest of the us because there are plenty of them on both sides, so don't kid yourselves that they are not out there in the gopher nation, huskie nation, bulldog nation, sioux nation or whatever team you choose to cheer for. See everyone at the Final Five, I know I will enjoy it no matter what.

  14. That the WCHA suspended him so soon after the infraction seems to me that the league decided it was a dirty hit, no? Head up or no, it was dirty, case closed.

  15. I think the league suspended him so early was because there is a game on Thursday. They took their sweet time when they decided to suspend Aaron Marvin for three games when St. Cloud had the bye week, No? It being a dirty hit is your opinion, not case closed. Look at the hit Tony Lucia gave the Mankato player back in December his head was up and braced for the check being put on him and he knocked the Mankato player silly, that easily could have been Matt Frattin knocked silly if Wehr's had his head up, I do believe the punishment is justified though, not a dirty hit however, agreeing with the other posters.

  16. Illegal? Yes. Should he have been suspended? Yes. Dirty? I am not so sure. SCSU Marvin's hit dirty? Yes. Difference? Genoway never saw it coming!

  17. Why are we parsing words about hits being dirty only in the sense that someone could or could not see it coming? If someone hits me with an elbow but I could see his elbow raised (but could not stop in time) does that make the elbowing infraction not dirty? Quit parsing and trying to get into Frattin's head here. We're not dealing solely with intent. Rather, we're analyzing a play which saw a guy bulldoze a vulnerable player and try to put him into the concession stand. The league found it dirty and suspended him for a game. He should have been kicked out of Sunday's game as well, and that's the point.

  18. Strange, I do not recall the league saying the hit was "dirty", only that it warrnanted the additional suspension. Or am I parsing too much for you?

    And actually, "intent" is a major consideration in this issue. While you cannot know what Frattin's true or actual intent is, he knew or should have known (establishment of intent) that an injury would occur (this is not the actual standard of the rule, but is essentially what the standard is).

    Nevertheless, you are right that whether it was dirty is not all that important (as a Sioux fan, we are standing up for out team- you would too), the hit was illegal and did warrant the game suspension and Frattin will pay that price.

    Hockey is a beautiful game, but it is violent and dangerous. These guys know it when they take the ice. However, they do not expect to routinely be hit in such an illegal manner.

    Committing penalties is also a part of this game. Any Coach would agknowledge that if his team was never penalized, they were not playing hard enough. In the same light, a coach should alos acknowledge that the hit in question was going too far.

    Go Sioux!