Recently the University of Connecticut captured both the Men’ and Women’s NCAA Basketball National Championships. It’d only been done twice, and both times the Huskies have done it.
Two weeks later, Minnesota had a great opportunity to match the achievement. The Women Gophers in hockey were the defending undefeated national champions.
While the men’s hockey team has been rated number one all year, the double championship was again in Minnesota’s grasp. Last year, the men Gophers were NCAA runners-up, and after losing to Union 7-4 two weeks ago, they are runners-up again. Both programs are NCAA runners-up in hockey — a huge accomplishment.
The professional team, the Minnesota Wild, have again qualified for the playoffs. Last year they were an eighth seed; this year they are a seventh seed in the Western Conference and find themselves down 0-2 to the Colorado Avalanche after blowing a 4-2 game-one lead after two periods and losing 4-2 in game two.
This is the time of year you hope that your team comes together and peaks. This has been a season of mixed results for the Wild, who have had four number-one goalies in one season.
The Wild have taken winning seriously. They’ve invested in this franchise like no other pro sports team in this town has in the last 20 years.
Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are both Olympians and All-Stars. The Wild signed both players to $100 million contracts three years ago shortly after the NHL lockout ended. an unprecedented investment by ownership in saying the time to win is now. Both players have been very good, but the Wild have yet to make a dent where it counts most, and that’s in the playoffs.
Trailing 2-0 to Colorado is no easy task. They are a talented team. They have to rally on their home ice at Xcel Center in St. Paul this week to get back in this series.
Minnesotans are proud of the State of Hockey. The team sells out 18,000 seats every home game. The fans are devoted, passionate, educated on the game and quick to let their feelings be heard. But like the North Stars before them, the Wild have yet to deliver the big prize — Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The Wild had 98 points during the regular season and scored 207 goals and allowed 206. That is far from dominant. However, Coach Mike Yeo has a solid system, and the Wild have shown signs that they are close to busting out and making a major playoff statement.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.
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