So was this a good tie or a bad tie?

Of course, it depends on the team. For North Dakota, the 4-4 tie with the Gophers was a bad tie. They were up 4-2 with six minutes to play. Someone once told me that a two-goal lead is the most dangerous you can have in hockey. Never believed that.

But in this case, UND lost the lead and hit two posts in the overtime. It was a bad tie for the team formerly known as the Fighting Sioux. Even wearing their more menacing black jerseys didn't help.

For the Gophers, who won 5-1 on Friday, it was a good tie. Nick Bjugstad, picked to be the WCHA's player of the year in the preseason polls, scored his 13th goal to bring the U within 4-3 with 8:50  left and then Nate Condon, the Gophers' hottest players, with six goals in the past seven games, tied the score with 2:58 left.

Condon has been playing center lately with Erik Haula injured for three games and moved to winger the past two games.

This was the second stirring comeback in two weekends. Going back one series, the Gophers scored two goals in the last nine minutes to beat Alaska Anchorage 4-3. That was a little easier, though, because both late goals came on power plays. Bjugstad had the first, defenseman Ben Marshall the second with 2:58 left.

Assorted observations on Saturday's game:

* There were big hits, but most of them were clean. Penalties were few. UND was 0-for-1 with zero shots on the power play, the Gophers 0-for-3 with three shots.

* The Gophers did a good job limiting UND two hottest players, the K & K boys, Danny Kristo and Corban Knight. Kristo had one goal and five shots in the second game but was a minus-2. Knight extended his points streak to 19 games with a goal but that was his only shot and he was a minus-1.

Redshirt freshman Rocco Grimaldi did have a good game with one goal, one assist and six shots. He was a plus-1.

* Defenseman Nate Schmidt led the Gophers with seven shots and was a plus-2. Condon had a goal and an assists, two shots and was a plus-1.

* Named the three stars of the game were Condon, Grimaldi and UND defenseman Jordan Schmaltz.

* Sophomore winger Sam Warning of the Gophers scored his fifth goal on Saturday. He has five goals on 16 shots, so he scores almost once every three times he shoots. That's the best percentage on the team.

* The Gophers outshot North Dakota 13-3 in the opening period, but then UND matched the Gophers shot for shot. Both had eight shots in the second period, 13 in the third. And in the five-minute overtime, the Gophers had one shot and UND zero, but the team formerly known as the Fighting Sioux hit two posts. Oh, so close.

* Erik Haula, who had an assist on Bjugey's goal, has a 16-game points streak.

* St. Cloud State beat Denver 5-1 on Saturday to pick up two points, and with the Gophers tie for one point, the two share the WCHA lead with 22 points apiece.

* Last season, the Gophers and UND played six times. The U had a 3-1 edge in the regular season. UND beat the Gophers 6-3 in the Final Five, but the Gophers won 5-2 in the West Region final.


The Gophers and North Dakota appear to be the two best teams in the WCHA at this point. If they do finish 1-2 in the league, they would both have byes in the Final Five quarterfinals.  And, if that is the case, a win in the semifinals by both would produce a rematch in the championship game. How sweet would that be?

UND has won the Final Five the past three years.

A rematch, of course, could also happen in the NCAA tournament. After Saturday's games, the Gophers are No. 2 in the PairWise ratings, North Dakota is tied for No. 6.

Those ratings mimic how the NCAA fills out its 16-team field. Five conference tournament champions advance, plus the nine highest PairWise teams, excluding the five automatic entries.

So the Gophers would be one of four No. 1 seeds, and the team formerly known as the Sioux a No. seed. If place in the same region, they could meet in the region final in that scenario like they did last year. Or, if they are in different regions, they would each have to win a regional title to advance the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh. That would be swell, too.


I kept it close, but Joe Van Thomme, aka Joe the Lawyer in my blog, edged me 9-3 to 8-4 this weekend in correctly forecasting games involving WCHA teams (ties count as 1/2 point if we picked a win or a loss. I picked one tie but didn't hit on it. There were three in other series).

Joe was 2-0 on the UMD-Colorado College series (a split). I was 2-0 on the Miami-Wisconsin series (a split). Should have picked more ties, darn. Hitting on a tie is a 1 in my scorekeeping system.