When the Gophers took their helmets off for the pregame introductions, they got everyone's attention at Mariucci Arena on Friday.
All the players had dyed their hair blond. UMD did that last year and it worked for the Bulldogs, they won the NCAA championship.
That is the Gophers' goal, too, and they took step one Friday toward reaching it. They edged Alaska Anchorage 2-1 on Erik Haula's two second period goals.
The three stars of the game were:
No. 1: Haula. He scored two even-strength goals at 1:42 and 9:52 of the second period, both at even strength. They were goals No. 16 and 17 for him this season. He was a plus-2 for the game and took only two shots.
No. 2: Nate Schmidt. The sophomore defenseman had the key assist on both of Haula's goals. On the first one he made a pass from one blue line to the other, to send Haula in alone on UAA's goalie. On the second Haula goal, Schmidt hit the right post with a shot and the puck deflected to Haula -- just as planned. Ha.
No. 3: Chris Kamal. The sophomore netminder for the Seawolves stopped 32 shots, including 14 in the second period.
* Nick Bjugstad of the Gophers had a game-high seven shots on net, which almost equaled the eight that UAA had as a team the final two periods.
* Mark Alt blocked four shots and Justin Holl three for the Gophers, who had 13 blocks total.
* UAA was one-for-seven on power plays with eight shots on net; the Gophers were zero-for-two on power plays, with six shots on net, all on one two-minute man-advantage in the second period.
GOPHERS IN NCAAs?
Tim Brule of USCHO.com studies the PairWise ratings more closely than most. So when he says the Gophers have all but clinched a spot in the NCAA tournament this year, it means something.
And that's exactly what he said Saturday after the Gophers' 2-1 win over UAA. He said even if the Seawolves win the next two games, the Gophers probably wouldn't fall enough in the PairWise ratings to be excluded from an at-large bid.
Right now the Gophers are tied for No. 6 in the PairWise ratings, which mimic how the NCAA fills out its 16-team NCAA field. The top 14 or 15 in the final PairWise ratings after the conference tournaments make the NCAAs.
UMD, No. 2 in the PairWise behind Boston College , also will be in the NCAA tournament.
North Dakota is tied for No. 11, so two losses to Bemidji State might put them close to the bubble. The Fighting Sioux beat the Beavers 4-1 Friday.
Also close to the bubble is Denver, which dropped to No. 13 in the PairWise after losing 1-0 to Wisconsin. Another loss and DU's season could be over.