Friday, December 03, 2010

My Favorite DECC Games

Everyone has their favorite DECC stories ... the games that they'll never forget. Here are my five favorites.

5. UMD advances to Final Five (2003).

UMD hadn't been to the WCHA Final Five in a while. And the 2002-2003 season didn't start with a ton of promise. Third-year coach Scott Sandelin got them to improve, though, and by the end of the season, they were good enough to earn a home-ice playoff berth for the first time since 1998 (more on that later).

They split the first two games against St. Cloud State, winning the Friday game 5-4 before dropping a 3-2 decision in overtime on Saturday thanks to a Mike Doyle winner from Ryan Malone.

(UMD fans hated Ryan Malone, but we all knew he was good, and it's not shocking he's made a few dollars playing pro hockey since.)

Sunday night, UMD just laid the wood to St. Cloud State. The Bulldogs never trailed in a 7-3 game that wouldn't have been that memorable at all had UMD been to the Final Five recently, or if the UMD student section -- in full throat all night -- not beaked SCSU starting goalie Jake Moreland to the point that he was talking to himself and banging his stick on his crossbar in frustration.

You don't think players can hear the fans? Jake Moreland is living proof they certainly can.

Fans celebrated the Final Five berth after the game, and UMD would ride the wave of that late-season run to a third-place finish in St. Paul, followed by a Frozen Four berth the following season.

4. Fast start, right result (2004).

UMD finished in the upper tier of the WCHA again in 2003-2004, propelled by a 14-game unbeaten streak that carried them into February.

Someone forgot to tell Minnesota State.

The Mavericks shocked UMD in overtime to open a best-of-three playoff series, then absorbed a 6-2 thrashing on Saturday thanks to a Junior Lessard hat trick.

Sunday started pretty well for UMD, as they took a 5-0 lead in the first period. It went downhill from there, as the Mavericks rallied. After UMD made it 6-2 on an Evan Schwabe goal, MSU scored two before the second period was over.

They added one more in the third before UMD put the clamps on the Mavericks, holding them to just four shots in the third period in a 6-5 win that sent them to a second straight Final Five. Eventually, the magic carried the Bulldogs to the Frozen Four in Boston, but no further, as Denver ended the dream in a Thursday semifinal.

3. Patrick White Shines (2007).
2. David Brown's Big Morning (2008).

In 2007, Grand Rapids had adorned themselves once again in the old-school orange. The artists formerly known as the Indians changed to the Thunderhawks in the name of political correctness, but the Halloween Machine had returned in 2006, when Rapids made a hell of a run to the state Class AA championship game.

Many of the principle players were back for Grand Rapids in 2007, including Minnesota recruit Patrick White, Sam Rendle, and Joe Stejskal. They made it to the Section 7AA semifinals for an afternoon affair against Duluth East. In the previous semifinal, a limited Tyler Johnson scored in the final minutes to give Cloquet an upset win over top-seed Elk River. Rapids and East topped that game with a stellar high-school hockey game.

The teams went back and forth all the way to overtime. Earlier in the season, I had scorned White for scoring a goal in the final seconds of a blowout loss to East and hot-dogging. On this day, there would be no blowout, and White had every right to enjoy his achievement, as he buried the overtime winner for the Thunderhawks. Grand Rapids then beat Cloquet for the section title, and they finished state runner-up to Roseau.

Meanwhile, Feb. 23, 2008 was a long day at the DECC. Not only were there two Section 7AA semifinal games, but the UMD women hosted St. Cloud State, and the men were scheduled to host Colorado College. That's a busy day at the rink, especially when you're covering all four games.

The first Section 7AA game was played at 10AM, as Cloquet/Esko/Carlton battled Duluth East. The Lumberjacks were the underdog, and they fell behind in the first period. A four-goal second period had CEC up a pair going into the third, but Rob Johnson almost single-handedly willed East back into the game. Johnson gave East a 5-4 lead in the third, but it wasn't meant to last long.

Senior defenseman David Brown completed a hat trick to tie it, and then CEC got a late power play.

Brown's fourth goal of the game came with just 12 seconds to go, and gave the Lumberjacks an improbable 6-5 win over Duluth East. It was the third straight year East was bounced in the section semifinals, and these two were heartbreaking.

1. The Comeback (1998).

To this day, this is the only DECC game I own on DVD. It was March 15, 1998.

Minnesota and UMD split the first two games in a best-of-three playoff series, each winning convincingly. The Gophers shut UMD out in the Saturday game, and they took a 3-0 lead into the third period of the deciding game on that Sunday night. After Minnesota made it 4-0 in the third, many of the 3,000 or so in attendance began heading to the exits. That would be a regrettable decision.

UMD got one from Duluthian Ryan Coole before the midway point of the third to make it 4-1, then Curtis Bois popped one in with under eight minutes to go to make it 4-2. It stayed that way until the final four minutes of regulation. Off a crazy scramble in front of the Minnesota net, Curtis Doell -- who had suffered a rather ugly-looking-but-not-at-all-serious-apparently leg injury earlier -- shoved the puck into an open net at 16:32.

The old house went berzerk less than a minute later, as Bert Gilling got open at the top of the left circle and beat Steve DeBus through two screening teammates for the equalizer.

Only then did Doug Woog wake up and call his timeout, which was enough to settle the game down and get it to overtime.

"I'm a little bit surprised that didn't come earlier," said Frank Mazzocco, who called the game with Tom Reid on what was then called Midwest Sports Channel and is now Fox Sports North.

"We talked about that. Sometimes, a one minute thing can really get the guys refocused and readjusted, and we were surprised by that," former UMD coach Mike Sertich told me this week.

In overtime, each team had some chances, but UMD's Brant Nicklin and DeBus held their own until the midway point. Off a faceoff in the Minnesota zone, the puck popped free behind the Minnesota net. Two UMD players got to it and got it to the front of the net, where it went into the air off a shot on goal. Mike Peluso flashed in front of the net and knocked the puck out of the air, into the goal. Joe Rybar took the initial shot, and Ken Dzikowski helped set the play up with his work behind the UMTC net.

DeBus protested, saying Peluso played the puck with a high stick, but it's clear on the DVD -- made by an acquaintance using the tape he had of the game -- that Peluso's goal would have stood had replay been in use in 1998.

It was a good date night for the future Mrs. Ciskie and me. It was one of our first, and it was one of those moments where you realize you're on the right track with someone. After all, we had a date at a hockey game. How does anything get better than that?

We've had numerous dates at hockey games since -- including a Valentine's Day Gopher-UMD game at some point -- and I have her to thank for my current obsession with the sport.

To this day, people in Duluth talk about that game as if they were there. Had they all been there, it would have required the DECC seat 25,000 people instead of 5,000.

And it wasn't even full.

Friday and Saturday, it will be.

Goodbye, old friend. We move on to a new building, but we'll never forget the old one.


USAFA Bulldog said...

Thankfully I also have a DVD of it.

I don't recall being at that game, I'm guessing I'd remember it if I had.

1998 was during my "Denver years" so that stands to make sense I wasn't there, which is a huge shame considering this knocked UMTC out in the first round, which almost never happens.

Slappy said...

I still have my ticket stubs from that 1998 series. From one former Spartan to another Bruce, how do I get a copy of that 98 game??

Jeremy Waschek said...

Where did you guys get DVDs from that game? I was there and I also still have a VHS recording of the MSC telecast, but I don't think we have a VCR anymore...

USAFA Bulldog said...

Jeremy -

At one point, circa 2004, some UMD fan was making copies of his for people. I found out about it through the Penalty Box website.

Jason said...

I was also at all of those 7AA semifinal games you mentioned. I'll never forget sitting on the Elk River side and watching the roughly 2,500 Cloquet fans leap out of their seats as Tyler Johnson recieved that pass at neutral and went in on a clean breakaway and roofed it with a minute left and the CEC fans went nuts. The frenzy kept going as CEC scored a rebound goal about 10 seconds later off the ensuing faceoff. There's great pictures of Patrick Whites game winning goal vs. East on by Jack Muhar. Bruce, I wish I could get a recording of your radio calls from that most memorable day for me as a Grand Rapids fan and a fan of Minnesota hockey.