In a weekend that saw second-seeded Duke and Missouri fall to something called Lehigh and Norfolk State, respectively, in the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, it's no surprise that upsets would also be plentiful in the WCHA Frozen Five hockey tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
Minnesotans had three in-state teams in the tournament: The top-seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers, the second-seed and defending champion Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, and the St. Cloud State Huskies.
After the North Dakota Fighting Sioux defeated the Huskies 4-1 on Thursday night, it set up a great matchup against the Golden Gophers. The Gophers were 3-1 against the Sioux this season and were 11-3 when playing in the Twin Cities.
After Kyle Rau, Jake Hanson, and Zack Busish goals gave the Gophers a 3-0 lead in the second period, the Sioux scored six unanswered goals; including five in the third period to give the Sioux a 6-3 victory and a berth in the WCHA Championship game. The Gophers had allowed a league-low 88 goals all season.
Things didn't go much better on the other side of the bracket for Minnesota-Duluth, who was taking on the Pioneers of the University of Denver. Denver jumped out to a 3-0 lead, just like the Gophers, but the Bulldogs tied the game at three after two Mike Seidel goals and a goal by WCHA Player of the Year and Scoring Champion Jack Connolly.
After a scoreless overtime period, Denver's Zac Larraza send the Bulldog's packing with the game-winner at the 8:14 mark in the second overtime period to sent the Pioneers on a collision course with the Fighting Sioux for the Broadmoor Trophy tonight.
The self-proclaimed 'State of Hockey' had three of the five schools represented, but at the end of the weekend had an 0-3 record as Minnesotans watch Denver take on the Fighting Sioux...schools that have have combined to win five of the last seven WCHA Final Five tournaments.
The Gophers ended their season as regular-season WCHA Champions with a 20-8-0 record, the Bulldogs finished 16-7-5, and the Huskies had a 12-12-4 mark.
On the women's side, however, the Gopher women were the only Minnesota representative and will face top-seeded Wisconsin at AMSOIL Arena in Duluth, Minn. for the championship. The Gopher women beat North Dakota 5-1 to reach the championship game.