Aside from seeing money clearly squandered, there is not much Minnesota sports fans hate more than a team that doesn’t live up to expectations. That is much of the reason for the angst surrounding the Gophers men’s basketball team over the past several weeks — though, to be fair, that squad has a chance at redemption after getting a No. 11 seed in the NCAA tournament. Monday’s paper devotes multiple pages to that team and tournament. Instead, here, we will focus on three local teams that have made news for positive reasons recently — by rising to the occasion and meeting expectations:
Vikings: The team went into this offseason needing to upgrade at wide receiver and quarterback. The first need grew even more when Percy Harvin was traded for three draft picks (first, third and seventh). Fans were getting antsy as the first 24 hours of free agency came and went. Then Minnesota nabbed Greg Jennings and Matt Cassel (while also retaining a lot of its own free agents), proving that a plan is in place and is being executed. The Vikings gave Jennings less money than Harvin demanded, plus they got draft picks to replenish other positions. Win-win. Cassel will push Christian Ponder and can start if he falters or gets injured, but he is saying the right things about his status. Another win-win.
Gophers women’s hockey: Can you imagine the pressure of playing in a triple-overtime, win-or-go-home game while trying to extend a record-breaking winning streak? It would have been all-too-Minnesotan for the Gophers to have their season end Saturday. Instead, they pushed their streak to 47 victories and earned a berth in the Frozen Four with a 3-2 victory near the end of that third extra session. The Gophers and North Dakota nearly played the equivalent of two full games. And Minnesota is still playing.
Wild: The headlines three weeks ago said the Wild couldn’t score and coach Mike Yeo was on the hot seat. Both statements were true. But suddenly, Minnesota isn’t just winning — it is dominating teams in the manner many expected after their $200 million spending spree last July 4. The Wild has at least four goals in five of its past nine games and is tied for the division lead with Vancouver heading into a road showdown Monday night. Expecting the Wild to thrive in that game is no longer crazy. It’s expected.