By Jess Myers
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Just as Big Ten hockey referees are constantly evaluating players on the ice, the players are given a chance to offer feedback on the men in the stripes at season’s end. Tyler Sheehy, who was the Minnesota Gophers’ captain last season, decided it would be best not to share his feelings following the abrupt and controversial end of his final college game.
Sheehy watched the final seconds of the Gophers’ season from inside the penalty box at Notre Dame, after he was whistled for hooking in the opening minute of overtime in an elimination game with the Fighting Irish. At the offensive blue line, Sheehy had lifted the stick of Irish forward Colin Theisen, just as Theisen tripped and went down. The official behind Sheehy saw the Gopher’s stick go up and the Irish skater go down, and called hooking. Twenty-one seconds later, the Irish scored with a man advantage to end the game, and end Minnesota’s season.
“It took me a while to get over it,” Sheehy admitted, while attending Minnesota Wild development camp in late June. “We get evaluations at the end of the year that you get to send in to the conference. I thought it would be best if I didn’t send anything in this year. I definitely wasn’t happy, and rather than make myself or Minnesota look bad, I just put it in the junk folder. It’s a tough way to go out.”
Gophers coach Bob Motzko said the penalty call was “a travesty” after the game, and had an animated conversation with the Big Ten’s supervisor of officials just outside the team’s locker room. He offered no further comment on the officiating in his season-ending meeting with the media a few days later.
“All the words that need to be said are said, and nothing’s going to change. It’s a tough thing for nine kids,” Motzko said, referencing the team’s seniors. “We still had 60 minutes to score a goal and we didn’t score one. And that’s the only thing we can do. Let’s not dwell on it. It was wrong, yes. Over, yes. It’s over now and we need to celebrate the things we have to celebrate.”
Notre Dame went on to win the Big Ten playoff title and earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, where the Irish fell to Massachusetts in the national quarterfinals.
Jaguars say goodbye to a humble hero
In the semifinals of the 1992 Minnesota boys state hockey tournament, Bloomington Jefferson rallied from a third period deficit to beat Cloquet 5-4 in overtime, en route to winning the state title that year. Tim McDonald, a junior forward, had three goals — including the overtime winner — and two assists that day. But you wouldn’t have known it if you spoke to him after the game.
“He was one of the most humble kids. When the writers came in to talk, they could hardly get anything out of him,” former Jaguars coach Tom Saterdalen said on Tuesday. “He would just talk about his teammates doing all the work and that he was just there. He was just a very, very humble kid.”
Saterdalen spoke on Tuesday at the funeral with full military honors for McDonald, who was 44. He died on June 28 while piloting a medical helicopter that crashed near Brainerd, leaving behind a wife and four children.
McDonald won state titles in 1992 and 1993 with the Jaguars, then played college hockey at Gustavus Adolphus before learning to fly Blackhawk helicopters in the US Army and doing two tours of duty in Iraq. More recently, he had coached high school hockey in northern Wisconsin, and called upon his former coach for advice.
“He and I met in October, before the season started and he had two pages of questions to ask me,” Saterdalen recalled. “We met again in February and he had two more pages of questions about next year. He really wanted to do a good job.”
Flags across Minnesota were flown at half-staff on Tuesday in McDonald’s honor.
Badgers get an early start before heading north
While most college hockey teams begin official practices in September, the Wisconsin Badgers were on the ice Monday night, for their first skate prior to the upcoming season. NCAA rules allow college teams to take a trip outside the country once every four years, and the Badgers will travel to Vancouver to play the University of British Columbia twice in late August.
Wisconsin landed two of the Big Ten’s more highly-touted incoming freshmen in forwards Alex Turcotte and Cole Caufield, who were picked fifth and 15th overall, respectively, in last month’s NHL Draft. Badgers coach Tony Granato said they are taking full advantage of this opportunity for a few extra practices.
“Just being around the kids is always fun. They get to know you a little bit better as a coach and you get to know them a little bit better as kids. I think we know what kind of players they are,” Granato said, saying they’re mostly taking it easy on the ice. “You don’t want to make this a tryout, or make them think they need to be in midseason form right now. It’s about getting ready for the season, working on skills and getting to know your teammates. So it’s more of a team-building thing.”
The Badgers finished tied for fifth in the Big Ten and had a 14-18-5 overall record in Granato’s second season coaching his alma mater in 2018-19.