MINNEAPOLIS — The Ferris State Bulldogs and Minnesota Golden Gophers left the Mariucci Arena ice on New Year’s Day serenaded by a chorus of boos after the teams skated to a 2-2 tie in the consolation game of the 20th-annual Mariucci Classic.
However, the angry mob’s frustration was not directed toward anything related to the players’ performance, but rather toward the culprit responsible for preventing them from performing just a little bit longer.
Tournament rules provided for a shootout to determine the outcome of games not decided after five minutes of overtime. Even as the P.A. announcer was briefing fans about the format, the perpetrator was in the midst of robbing those who had remained of an event which has become a crowd favorite in arenas nationwide. Fans initially weren’t sure what to make of what they thought to be two teams lining up to shake hands prior to a shootout, but quickly figured it out and began voicing their displeasure.
Upon intense post-game scrutiny, the guilty party confessed to his crime.
“There was no point,” said Minnesota coach Don Lucia referring to the shootout. “The championship game had been decided. In the past we had done the shootout just to advance to the championship game.”
“I thought there would be a shootout,” said Ferris State coach Bob Daniels, who leaves Minnesota still seeking his 300th win as coach of the Bulldogs. “I thought because it was a tournament, it was supposed to be played out, but I’m fine with it either way. For us, we’re used to it though, we do shootouts all the time so it’s not a big deal, but I’m OK with it either way.”
Minnesota’s Jake Hansen and Ferris State’s Matthew Kirzinger each scored a goal and added an assist for their respective teams while goaltenders Pat Nagle (32 saves for Ferris State) and Kent Patterson (27 for Minnesota) played well between the pipes.
For Hansen, the weekend left a lot to be desired.
“A tie is not really what we wanted,” said Hansen. “We know that Ferris State is above us in the power rankings and we needed a win. It’s a very disappointing weekend.
“I was pleased with my play but it doesn’t really matter; we got the tie and we lost the first game (an overtime 3-2 loss to Union on Friday) so I can’t be too happy about that.”
Daniels, on the other hand, felt the outcome was proper based on how it was played.
“I think a tie was the just end result of the game in which the shots were pretty even, the power plays were pretty even, it was pretty much evenly played all along,” said Daniels. “Both teams I thought had a number of chances [and] both goalies played well.”
Kirzinger got the Bulldogs on the board first, sneaking in the back door to bury a feed from Scott Wietecha on a power play just 4:09 into the game. Hansen answered at 17:51, fighting off a Justin Menke check to backhand a rebound of a Seth Helgeson shot past Nagle and the teams were all square after one period.
In the second, Kirzinger found Brett Wysopal open in the left circle and the junior defenseman fired a bullet over Patterson’s left shoulder for Ferris State’s first and only lead of the tournament.
However, Bulldogs forward Aaron Schmit’s tripping penalty early in the third period proved costly, as Minnesota’s Jay Barriball redirected Hansen’s blast from the blue line behind Nagle for his team-leading 11th goal of the season at 7:38 to conclude the scoring.
Although the Gophers only managed two goals on 34 shots–nine more than the Bulldogs allow on average–Hansen’s faith in his team remains strong.
“I feel confident about our team,” said Hansen. “[Ferris State], obviously, was a lot more defensive, which for some reason we seem to struggle more against because it’s more of a frustrating game. You’ve got to stay patient, you’ve got to stay calm, you’ve got to stay positive on the bench.”
“I think you’ve got to give Minnesota credit rather than look at us and say ‘Hey, maybe we made some mistakes,’” said Daniels regarding the Bulldogs’ uncharacteristically high shots allowed total. “I do think for us it is an acclimation process; this is the first time all year we’ve played on a big Olympic sheet and it’s a different game and it’s a game that we’re really kind of unaccustomed to.
“Minnesota’s got an awful lot of speed, so give them a lot of credit for generating their opportunities.”
Despite heading home without a victory, Daniels was not left deflated unlike a nearby domed stadium
“I was really happy with how we performed all weekend; not necessarily happy with the result,” said Daniels. “I just would have liked to have gotten [rewarded for] our performances.”