Minnesota loses regional final to UMD, 3-1

One of the greatest runs in college hockey postseason history came to an end Sunday afternoon.

The quest for a threepeat is over, and so is one of the greatest runs in college hockey history.

Minnesota-Duluth defeated two-time defending national champion Minnesota 3-1 Sunday at Van Andel Arena in the championship game of the 2004 NCAA Divison I men's ice hockey Midwest Regional.

Despite a rivalry and history that includes almost 200 games against each other, UMD and Minnesota had never met in an NCAA tournament game – until Sunday. Minnesota fans might want to wait another 200 games before they face the Bulldogs again, especially after Sunday's performance, spearheaded by the stellar play of UMD sophomore goalie Isaac Reichmuth.

"It's great to be part of this," said Reichmuth, who stopped 23 of 24 Gopher shots after shutting out Michigan State 5-0 in the tournament semifinals one day earlier. "It's great to see the progress we've made as a program and now to be heading to the Frozen Four."

It was the first postseason loss for Minnesota since the Gophers were defeated 5-2 by Denver in the title game of the 2002 WCHA Final Five championship, a stretch of 17 games. UMD advanced to its first Frozen Four since 1985. The Bulldogs (28-12-4) defeated Minnesota five times in six games this season. The only win for Minnesota (27-14-3) over UMD was March 19 in the championship game of the WCHA Final Five.

UMD, Maine, Denver and the winner of Northeast Regional final between Boston College and Michigan will compete for the national title April 8-10 at the FleetCenter in Boston, Mass. Denver defeated North Dakota 1-0 to win the West Region title, and Maine defeated Wisconsin 2-1 in overtime to win the East Regional title. Denver will face UMD in the first game of the Frozen Four, while Maine will play the winner of BC/Michigan.

Evan Schwabe gave the Bulldogs a lead they would never relinquish when he opened the scoring with just under two minutes remaining in the first period. Schwabe, who has 14 points during the Bulldogs' seven-game playoff run, came in on a breakaway off a Minnesota turnover and beat Gopher goalie Kellen Briggs with a backhand for his 19th goal of the year.

"After we won last night, we were pretty excited to get another shot at the Gophers," said Schwabe. "This morning we got up, had a team meal and talked about what we needed to do. Then we went out and did it."

Just shortly after a UMD goal was waved off because of a man in the crease, Luke Stauffacher scored on a wrist shot from just near the right face off dot 1:37 into the final period of play to put the Bulldogs up 2-0. Minnesota's Grant Potulny countered four minutes later on the power play, but Jesse Unklesbay's second goal in as many games at the 10:19 mark sealed the Bulldogs' sixth win in their last seven outings with the Gophers.

"We really gutted this one out," said UMD head coach Scott Sandelin. "We got some big saves from Isaac at key times and seemed to save our best hockey for that third period."

Reichmuth was named the Midwest Regional Most Valuable Player and joined senior right wing Junior Lessard, and Schwabe on the six-member All-Tournament Team.

The Bulldogs, who are unbeaten in all but four of their last 25 outings (19-4-2), will be making their third NCAA Frozen Four appearance, having played in that national event in both 1984 and 1985.

"It's a great time for this program and our players," said Sandelin. "Our guys have competed so hard that they deserve it because they worked for it."

One of the best senior classes in the history of Minnesota hockey played their final game in the Maroon and Gold, leaving four banners in the Mariucci Arena rafters - two NCAA Championships and two WCHA Final Five Championships. Matt Koalska, Joey Martin, Grant Potulny, Troy Riddle and Jon Waibel leave the Golden Gophers as one of the most productive classes in Minnesota history.

The Golden Gophers finish the 2003-04 season with a 27-14-3 overall record, a fourth-place finish in the WCHA with a 15-12-1 mark, a 2004 WCHA Final Five Championship and an NCAA record-breaking 28th NCAA Tournament Appearance. Minnesota's accomplishments in the 2003-04 campaign are all the more remarkable considering the Maroon and Gold started the season 2-7-1.

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