Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Flashback: Gophers thumped Yale in 2002

A decade ago, Yale thought it might have an NCAA tournament caliber team when it traveled to Minnesota for the Mariucci Classic during the Christmas break. The Bulldogs were 7-4, led by All-American Chris Higgins, and playing for coach Tim Taylor's 300th career win. Minnesota was 9-4-4 and the defending national champs.

"I think it's a known fact that if we expect to make the NCAA tournament we will have to prove ourselves against the best teams in the nation," Yale senior forward Evan Wax said at the time. "Thus tournament is a great chance for us to make a statement that we can beat the best teams in the country and deserve consideration for the NCAAs at the end of the year."

But Yale was without Higgins -- now in his 9th NHL season -- who was playing with Team USA at the World Junior Championships. It was a big reason Minnesota rolled to a 7-3 victory. Thomas Vanek, now in his 7th NHL season with Buffalo, had two goals. Yale managed to outshoot the Gophers 35-34, and got a goal and an assist from Joe Zappala.

It was a successful season for Yale -- at least by its standards back then -- an 18-14 record and top-4 finish in the ECAC standings. The team had finished with a winning record once (1997-98) in the previous 10 years. But its NCAA dream didn't come true. Brown upset the Bulldogs in the ECAC quarterfinals.

Minnesota? It went on to win its second straight NCAA championship that April.


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