Tyler McGregor and Jesse Root now form quite a club. They should get together for lunch in a few years ... a three-martini lunch to celebrate the unlikely connection.
Back in 2006, McGregor scored 53 seconds into overtime to give 16th-seeded Holy Cross a 4-3 victory over the No. 1-seeded Gophers in the first round of the NCAA hockey tournament. On Friday, Root scored nine seconds into overtime to give 15th-seeded Yale a 3-2 victory over the No. 2-seeded Gophers in another first-round shocker.
I even have an opening line for Root if the lunch with McGregor takes place. They shake hands and then Root says: "What took you so long?''
Nine seconds. Presto. The most-talented team in college hockey -- with 14 NHL draft choices, plus coveted free agent Nate Schmidt -- is gone again.
The accounts by reporters in Grand Rapids, Mich. tell us there were Gophers red-eyed with tears. The players should have thought about how bad they would feel over defeat much earlier, as they were sleep-walking through the first two periods.
The Gophers are the Duke of college hockey, in that they for the most part get first call on the best recruits. The difference is the hockey Gophers are competing in a division and a sport with 59 programs, and Division I men's basketball has close to 350.
The Gophers never have a player who writes an underdog story to fulfill a dream to play Division I hockey. Most nights, the Gophers don't have to rely on grit and resiliency to have success. They can get by with that wonderful advantage of superior talent.
And when that big edge doesn't come through, and an uber-talented group of Gophers gets booted right away by a Holy Cross or a Yale ... frankly, it's sort of a knee-slapper.
There's no more pompous group of sports fans in the Twin Cities than hardcore followers of Gophers men's hockey. That makes it quite entertaining to see them in full pout after an unexpected elimination from the NCAA tournament.
If you're a person who roots for the Dookies, who roots for the Yankees, heck, who roots for the Hendricks race team and Manchester United ... then go ahead, embrace the Gophers in hockey. If you're not, then you're invited to join me in getting more of a kick out of it when this state's other programs -- St. Cloud State, MSU Mankato, UMD, Bemidji State -- manage to find their moments of success.
Mankato had not been to the WCHA's Final Five in a decade, and now the Mavericks are playing today in the NCAA tournament.
How can that not be more compelling, more worthy of a Minnesotan's emotion, than The Don's 14 NHL draft choices taking a dive against Yale, and then crying about it?
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