MINNEAPOLIS — Like the University of Minnesota, the University of Michigan is a leading research institution. They claim that more than $1.5 billion is budgeted for research at their main campus in Ann Arbor and throughout their school's system.
And inside Yost Ice Arena, where the Michigan Wolverines tied and lost to the Minnesota Gophers last weekend, the amount of research done by the student section there, known as the Children of Yost, left the visiting team amazed, somewhat angered, and ultimately amused.
Gophers goalie Jack LaFontaine expected to hear some jeers upon returning to Ann Arbor for the start on Friday. He'd spent his first two seasons of college at Michigan, playing in 22 games for the Wolverines before transferring to Minnesota. Still, the level, consistency and content of the invective directed his way from the Children was impressive.
"I took it for granted when I played there. I always knew they were enthusiastic, but start to play against them and you realize, wow, they are ruthless," LaFontaine said, with a smile. He noted that he heard some personal things that took some impressive digging into his background, not much of which he could repeat. "They knew too much stuff... they had ex-girlfriend dirt. They had everything. They were good. Wow."
LaFontaine also said that the relentless booing, while he was stopping 33 of the 34 Wolverines shots, actually may have worked against Michigan, as it pumped up the Gophers to defend their goalie, especially when the ex-girlfriend was mentioned.
"I guess we're kind of used to the chirps, but that was an ultra sensitive one," said Gophers senior defenseman Ryan Zuhlsdorf. "He handled is great and kind of shut down the student section there by the end, so good for him."
Hurried homecoming on Saturday
Some teams like to linger in the locker room and savor a win, especially on the road. That was not the case for the Gophers on Saturday, after they beat Michigan 3-1. The hockey win came a few hours after the Gophers football team had beaten Penn State in Minneapolis to improve to 9-0, and there was a feeling that the campus would be abuzz.
"It was awesome, sitting there in Ann Arbor, to see the field at the end of the (football) game. We all wished we were there," Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. "When our game was over, I've never seen a team get packed and get on the plane so fast to get back to the Twin Cities."
Thanks to Saturday's hockey game starting at 4 p.m. CT, the Gophers were on the ground in Minnesota and back on campus by about 11 p.m. They found the place to be surprisingly quiet, perhaps due to the fact that the football game had kicked off 12 hours earlier.
"I was kind of surprised. Campus was a little dead," Zuhlsdorf said. "You've got a lot of college students partying for a while. It's hard to sustain that pace."
WCHA atop the college hockey world
A student of music history will note that "Uptown Funk" by Bruno Mars was the No. 1 song in America nearly five years ago, on March 23, 2015. Prior to this week, when the national college hockey polls were released, that was the last time that two WCHA teams — Minnesota State Mankato on the men's side, and Minnesota in the women's poll — were ranked No. 1 in the national polls. Both the Mavericks men and Gophers women were the top-ranked teams in the early spring of 2015 as well.
The 2015 Gophers women claimed the NCAA title that year, beating Harvard in the finale, while things ended badly for the Mavericks, who were upset 2-1 by RIT in their first NCAA playoff game.Jess Myers (@JessRMyers) can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.