Watching Minnesota’s men’s hockey team accept the MacNaughton Cup on Friday night, it was clear the Gophers were a team proud of their accomplishment.
It was also clear none of them were going to get too close to it.
Outside of team captain Gino Guyer, no Minnesota player actually touched the Cup — given to the Gophers for winning the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s regular-season title.
The team received the trophy after its 7-0 win over Duluth at Mariucci Arena. The players had the trophy placed at center ice so they could do a stick salute around it. However, they did not pose for a team photo with the trophy and didn’t even carry it off the ice.
“I told one of our media guys, (Director of Hockey Operations) Mark Bahr, that he could carry it off,” Guyer said, “because we wanted to minimize the amount we touched it.”
Guyer chalked the decision up to good, old-fashioned superstition. This is similar to why NHL players do not touch the conference championship trophy, instead waiting until they hoist the Stanley Cup.
“It’s a very beautiful trophy, and it’s something we’re really proud to have won,” Guyer said. “We’re just looking forward to what’s coming up next.”
Coach Don Lucia seemed puzzled by the players’ decision.
“That was the guys,” Lucia said with a smile after the game. “I don’t know why they did that. I told them, Enjoy it, you don’t get to see it very often.
“I didn’t give them (orders not to touch it). I said, Enjoy it. I mean, heck, I’ve been a part of it (before), and you should enjoy it. I don’t see anybody do that with the Broadmoor Cup (given to the WCHA playoff champions). But, you know what? I said, It’s your choice, and that’s what they chose to do.”
When a reporter told Guyer that the MacNaughton Cup is actually a much nicer trophy than the one given to the national champions, essentially a wooden plaque, Guyer responded with a smile.
“Yeah,” he said, “But it means a lot more.”
Guyer’s woes continue
The long scoreless drought continues for Guyer.
The senior forward and team captain for the Gophers again failed to find the back of the net this weekend against the Bulldogs. Now he has not scored in Minnesota’s past 29 games, a stretch dating back to the Gophers’ 2-2 tie at Duluth on Nov. 4. He has just four goals on the season.
Guyer had a number of solid chances to end the drought this weekend, the best of which came late in Saturday night’s game.
With Duluth goalie Nate Ziegelmann on the bench in favor of the extra attacker, Guyer had a great look at the open net in the Bulldogs’ zone. However, a less-than-stellar pass from linemate Mike Howe could not find Guyer’s stick, and he lost the chance.
“Talk about snake bit; holy smokes,” said senior defenseman Chris Harrington, Guyer’s roommate, with a laugh after the game. “That’s alright. He doesn’t need an empty-net goal. We’re going to wait for Gino to score a big goal. That’s when that thing’s going to come, when we really need it.”
Lucia said he’s not overly concerned about Guyer’s scoreless streak.
“A lot of great players go through it, and he’s going through it right now,” Lucia said.
On top again
The Gophers’ sweep of the Bulldogs last weekend means the team retained its No. 1 ranking in the latest USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll, released Monday.
Minnesota earned 39 of 40 first-place votes, with the remaining vote going to second-ranked Miami of Ohio.
Minnesota now has been at the top of the USCHO poll for five weeks in a row. The Gophers are also, again, No. 1 in the PairWise Rankings. According to USCHO.com, the PairWise Ranking is a system which attempts to mimic the method used by the NCAA Selection Committee to determine participants for the NCAA Division I men’s hockey tournament.