If things had worked out differently, Ryan Poehling wouldn't have been in Montreal on Saturday night. Instead, he would've been in Minnesota, preparing with his St. Cloud State teammates for what they hoped and expected would be a trip to the NCAA Frozen Four as the nation's top-ranked team.

That, of course, didn't happen because American International stunned the Huskies 2-1 on March 29 in the West Regional first round in Fargo.

Consolation prizes, however, sometimes can be pretty good, and that's what Poehling, a former Lakeville North star, learned Saturday.

Making his NHL debut less than a week after deciding to forgo his senior season and signing with Montreal, Poehling had a hat trick that included the tying goal with 2:31 left in the third period, then punctuated his "tour du chapeau'' with the winning shootout goal in the Canadiens' 6-5 triumph over the rival Toronto Maple Leafs.

RANDY JOHNSON