Forgotten anniversaries: 2003 Gophers men's hockey title

  • Updated: June 11, 2013 - 2:16 AM
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Thomas Vanek, left, the MVP of the Frozen Four in 2003, and Grant Potulny were main cogs on a Gophers squad that didn’t lose back-to-back games all season.

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Plenty of Minnesota sports anniversaries and years are embedded in our collective sports minds. But what about some lesser-known anniversaries? We’re here to take a look back at some of those, in increments of five years, dating backward from 2013. Today: The 2003 Gophers men’s hockey championship and five things you might have forgotten about that team and season:

1. If it’s possible for an NCAA hockey championship to fly under the radar, this one was it. First off, the 2002 championship was fresh in everyone’s mind. That one came in St. Paul, featured late-game heroics and broke a 23-year title drought. The 2003 team also had to contend with the Wild’s first playoff appearance ever, which morphed into a long playoff run.

2. The squad didn’t lose back-to-back games all season, something the champion Gophers the preceding season also accomplished. They were particularly dominant down the stretch, going 10-0-2 in their final 12 games, including a perfect 8-0 in the playoffs (four in WCHA playoffs and four in the NCAA playoffs).

3. Thomas Vanek, who as the MVP of the Frozen Four, finished the season with 31 goals and 31 assists — became the first Minnesota freshman since the 1969-70 season to lead the team in scoring. Six other forwards had at least 20 points, including Troy Riddle with 26 goals and 25 assists for 51 points.

4. With the exception of a 3-2 overtime victory over Michigan in the NCAA semifinals, the Gophers’ road to the championship was reasonably drama-free. The Gophers led Mercyhurst 8-0 after two periods in their opener, an eventual 9-2 victory. The followed with five first-period goals in a 7-4 victory over Ferris State. It was 1-1 going into the third period of the title game against New Hampshire, but the Gophers overwhelmed with four goals en route to a 5-1 victory.

5. Matt DeMarchi was the only senior who played in the NCAA title game. Four of the top seven scorers were freshmen or sophomores, while goalies Travis Weber and Justin Johnson were also both sophomores.

MICHAEL RAND

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