Patrick Reusse
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This is the 45th NCAA men's hockey tournament since Herb Brooks' third title in 1979 and the Gophers are in Sioux Falls playing in their 34th of those tournaments.

And when you're a contender 76% of the time, playing the best your sport has to offer in numerous games decided by one goal, excruciating defeats are going to be difficult to avoid.

There was one of those last April, when the Gophers had a team of rare talent (even for them) and a 2-0 lead in the national title game vs. Quinnipiac. They gave up that lead, and then a goal 10 seconds after the faceoff for overtime, extending the streak without a title to two decades.

Excruciating loss, but the all-time crusher? Not to me.

Nothing will ever top the 4-3 overtime loss to Harvard in the title game on April Fool's Day 1989, in a jammed Civic Center in St. Paul.

My interest in Gophers hockey was at a zenith then, as Doug Woog was the coach, and a favorite guest for Joe Soucheray and me on a Saturday radio show.

We loved the Wooger.

This was his fourth season with the Gophers and a decade since they had won it all. The time was right, and so was the roster — with 11 players who would play various numbers of games in the NHL.

Harvard was great, too, and the Gophers would lose 4-3 in overtime on a goal by Ed Krayer. Woog looked 10 years older after that game than when it started.

Maybe that was predictive, since he would coach 10 more Gophers seasons and they never would win it all.

The Gophers always seem to have a generational connection, and that's the case with the '89 team this weekend.

Dave Snuggerud was a high-scoring junior forward back from the '88 Olympic team for those Gophers. He would play 277 games (counting playoffs) in the NHL.

Lance Pitlick was a junior defenseman and would play 417 games (counting playoffs) in the NHL.

Jimmy Snuggerud and Rhett Pitlick, their sons, have spent much of this season playing as the wings on a line centered by freshman Oliver Moore.

Snuggerud is a sophomore and was the 23rd overall pick by St. Louis in 2022. Pitlick is a junior and was drafted in the fifth round by Montreal in 2019.

The second "Snuggy" has been in a scoring slump, but when he hammers the puck with full force … "whoosh."

Causing me to tell Dave on Friday morning: "That kid shoots the puck way harder than you did."

The original Snuggy responded: "As I tell him, it's the stick. They're shooting with rocket launchers. We were shooting with big old logs."

Dave is married to Ann, the daughter of Jim Westby, a former Olympian.

"Minneapolis South hockey … either a Westby or an Alm," I said.

Snuggerud said: "Confirmed."

They were in Sioux Falls with the rest of the Gophers entourage. "I didn't see Lance last night, but you never know … he might be around," he said.

Snuggy Sr. laughed and said: "He's teaching shooting and stickhandling. He came out of Cooper High. He should be teaching 'checking.' He's as tough as there is."

Snuggerud taught grade school for 15 years in Wayzata, then co-founded the Breakaway Academy grade schools with Andy Brink.

"We teach hockey skills, but it's more about life and learning, with a great teaching staff," he said.

How about Randy Skarda … seen him lately?

"Played golf with him a while back," Snuggerud said. "The greatest. And 35 years later, he's still asked about hitting the pipe."

The "tink" heard around Minnesota — Skarda drilling the pipe shortly before Krayer scored the Harvard winner.

My favorite ever from Skarda was in 2002, right before the Gophers returned to the champions' circle in St. Paul (pulled the goalie to tie Maine, then overtime winner by Grant Potulny).

"I got called up by the Blues for 30 games in 1993 and was scratched for 29," Skarda said. "I was supposed to sit in the press box and keep track of checks.

"I would drink a couple of Bud Lights and give my buddies two or three times more checks than they actually delivered."

What a collection. Come on Jimmy, Rhett and co. — beat Boston U., get back to St. Paul and win one for the ancestors.