April 1, 1990
By Andy Baggot, Wisconsin State Journal (edited for length)
DETROIT -- They sat in their cramped, hot dressing room at Joe Louis Arena Sunday afternoon with lumps in their throats, tears in their eyes and a sense of determination so profound that their innermost feelings simply could not be disguised.
I just walked around the locker room and looked in everyone’s eyes,” said Tom Sagissor, the outspoken senior wing on the University of Wisconsin hockey team. “I saw a lot of heart, saw a lot of dignity, a lot of pride. I saw guys who wanted to win.”
One man’s vision has never been more keen.
Spurred on by the combination of talent, a strong spirit of friendship and the firm belief that they would not be denied after two near misses, the Badgers whipped Colgate, 7-3, to win the National Collegiate Athletic Association title.
A season that began on Labor Day and ended on April Fool’s Day produced a 36-9-1 record and the fifth national championship in school history. It was the second title under Coach Jeff Sauer and first since 1983.
John Byce scored three goals, the once-comatose playoff power play clicked four times and an overall constitution that was both tougher, quicker and more experienced than the opponent were the primary reasons why the Badgers earned the victory.
Chris Tancill, the tournament’s most valuable player, Gary Shuchuk, Dennis Sneddon and Rob Andringa accounted for the other goals for Wisconsin, which surged to a 4-1 lead after one period and kept its distance.
Duane Derksen recorded 21 saves and got considerable assistance from a seemingly fearless set of defensemen who limited the Red Raiders (31-6-1) to 10 shots on goal in the first two periods.
The championship culminated a season that started with seven seniors— Sagissor, Byce, Tancill, Shuchuk, Rob Mendel, Mark Osiecki and Steve Rohlik — designating Sunday as their target date. Along the way they won the Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season and playoff titles, responded to the pressure by winning 18 of their last 20 games (18-1-1) and buried the memories of punching out in the NCAA quarterfinals in 1988 and ‘89.
“We knew we had one more goal to finish, and if we didn’t do it, it would be an unfinished season. We didn’t want that to happen,” said Derksen.
Rohlik, the captain, choked back tears as he talked about what he and his teammates had overcome.
“There was pressure every night,” he said. “Everyone would say, ‘Is Wisconsin that good or aren’t they?’ That was the big question all year long. Some people said, ‘You guys folded the last couple of years; you had a good enough team to do it.”
Byce converted on the power play one minute, 30 seconds into the game, then struck again at 3:23 when he took a bounce pass from Mendel and zoomed in alone for a shorthander.
Joel Gardner answered with the first of three power-play goals for the Red Raiders (Steve Poapst and Jamie Cooke had the others) at 4:58, but Tancill and Andringa came through on man-advantage situations before the end of the period and Wisconsin was off and running.
The UW power play was 6-for-13 (.462) during the Final Four after coming in 2-for-29 (.069) in six previous playoff games.
Colgate Coach Terry Slater said his club’s behavior (eight penalties in the first period, 16 overall) led to its early downfall.
“We took stupid penalties, no question about it,” he said. “We deserved them. There’s not much more to say.”
Slater also admitted his team was affected by the announced crowd of 15,034, more than half of which were very loud UW rooters.
“The were awe-stricken with all the people,” he said, explaining a first-period timeout.
Sauer said his club was affected by the crowd as well. “Just like playing at home,” he said.