Special moments and players in Mariucci's first 20 seasons

  • Article by: JASON GONZALEZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 3, 2014 - 3:23 PM

Special moments and players in the short history of the arena with a big ice sheet.

 

Twenty years ago the “Taj Mahal” of college hockey opened on the University of Minnesota campus. The new Mariucci Arena was a palace fit for Gophers hockey.

The 200-feet by 100-feet Olympic-sized ice sheet at the center of the venue was pristine. The hockey that it would play host to over the next 20 years was even better.

It started with a 4-4 tie against St. Cloud State on Oct. 30, 1993, and the excitement hasn’t let up. In the last game there before this weekend’s Mariucci Classic, Seth Ambroz scored a goal with 26 seconds left to give the Gophers a sweep of Wisconsin in the first Big Ten hockey series ever.

The individual talent to skate in the arena has been special. At least half of the 2014 men’s Olympic roster has played at Mariucci, including three former Gophers.

“It’s almost crazy when you look at all the guys that came through here. There are 20 guys on the Olympic roster that played college hockey and about 16 probably played at Mariucci,” said Grant Potulny, former Gophers standout and current assistant coach. “Mariucci was the Taj Mahal when it was built.”

With every aging arena, upkeep is necessary. In 2001-2002, 18 luxury suites were added to allow an even 10,000 fans into each event. Last season, a new LED scoreboard and sound system were installed.

The thing fans continue to fill the seats for, though, is the outstanding hockey talent on the ice each night.

In honor of the venue’s 20th anniversary and this weekend’s Mariucci Classic, here’s a look at the top 10 moments and top 10 players to come through Mariucci Arena.

Note: The lists were determined by a survey of former Gophers coaches and players, media members and fans. The memories are in chronological order.

 

Upsetting No. 1

Though there were many, Mike Crowley’s most memorable goal arguably came on Feb. 9, 1996. His wrist shot past Colorado College’s goaltender gave the Gophers a 3-2 victory against the top-ranked Tigers in front a sellout crowd. It was the Gophers’ only victory against the Tigers that season. Current Gophers coach Don Lucia was on the opposing bench at the time.

 

A timely late hat trick

Ryan Kraft made sure the Gophers would hang another banner in Mariucci Arena with a third-period hat trick against Wisconsin in 1997. Kraft’s goals enabled the Gophers to pull away for a 7-3 victory and claim a share of the WCHA regular-season championship.

 

Over-the-head good

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  • Mariucci Arena, in 2002.

  • Ticket from new Mariucci Arena's grand opening in 1993.

  • Gopher Mike Crowley’s goal beat No. 1 Colorado College in 1996.

  • Ryan Kraft’s hat trick for the Gophers in the third period of a 1997 game against Wisconsin clinched a share of the MacNaughton Cup.

  • Mariucci Arena fills up for most Gophers hockey games.

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