You can now officially call Grant Potulny Mr. March.
Until today, the man famous for scoring arguably the biggest goal in the history of Minnesota hockey, was known mostly for his heroics in the month of April.
He changed all that tonight. Netting the game-winner with six minutes left in the WCHA Final Five championship as Minnesota held off a ferocious North Dakota team for a 5-4 win before 19,306 crazed fans inside the Xcel Energy Center.
Picking up a loose puck behind the North Dakota net, carving his way out to the left of Fighting Sioux goaltender Jake Brandt and shoveling it off Brandt’s left pad and into the goal, sending a record crowd into a frenzy and lifting the Gophers to their second consecutive Broadmoor Trophy.
“I was just trying to forecheck and keep it in, but you never know,” said Potulny. “As long as you keep it down there you’re not going to get scored on and that’s what we were working on there. I just kept it going, spun around and luckily it went in.”
“What a fitting tribute to Grant,” said his coach, Don Lucia, whose team starts its quest for a three-peat next weekend. “To score the final goal in the Twin Cities and to get the game winner … we needed our top guys to step up and fortunately for us they were able to do it.”
They’ve been doing it for a while now, especially Potulny. He’s been here before, in this building and even in this game, but with this being his final game in the state he now freely calls home, this one will rank up there pretty high.
“Tonight’s got to be number two,” said Potulny, as a smile crossed his bearded face and his memory shifted to his last game winner in this building.
Buy now that goal, the overtime winner against Maine in the national title game two years ago has been frozen into the memory banks of everyone who has ever been a fan of the Gopher hockey, but he’s had some others worth remembering as well.
The two goals and an assist in the first 5:25 of last season’s WCHA title game when the Gophers beat then top-ranked Colorado College probably lead that list. That win catapulted Minnesota to a second consecutive national championship run.
He had a hat trick the following weekend in the Midwest regional against Mercyhurst too.
Then came Saturday. Where this one takes his team won’t be known for weeks yet, but regardless of where they go from here, Potulny’s journey with the maroon and gold has already taken him places he didn’t even dream of four years ago.
Two national titles, a pair of Final Five championships and now this. A chance for a three-peat, which would probably mean the most to the Grand Forks native considering who he’d get the opportunity to share it with.
Potulny’s younger brother Ryan signed his letter of intent to play at Minnesota two years ago now. He started this year with the Gophers, but then injured his knee early in the season and had to sit out 29 games. He wasn’t even going to return this year, but he healed, declined to apply for the medical redshirt and returned to the lineup for senior night at Mariucci.
Lucia inserted him into the lineup for the Gophers first two playoff games, and the freshman responded with a six-point weekend (four goals and two assists) then added another tally in Friday’s 7-4 win over Minnesota-Duluth.
He was started to show big brother up, and Grant was taking some mild-mannered heat from his teammates.
“If that’s grief, I’ll take that anytime,” said the elder. “He’s been such a spectacular addition to our team. (His play lately) has been a little jump start for me. Watching him out there is so fun; he’s just such a fantastic player that does so many good things.
“Personally that was a big thing this year, that I got to play with Ryan. We’ve been looking forward to this for two years since he signed and it’s just been such a dream to get out there with him.”
They’re not done yet, and neither Potulny wants that to end any time soon.
“These four years have been such a ride,” said Grant Potulny.
It will continue next weekend.