April 13, 2003
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Thomas Vanek came up big again for Minnesota -- in the biggest game of his career Saturday night.
The Austrian freshman sparked a four-goal third period, leading Minnesota to the NCAA hockey championship with a 5-1 win over New Hampshire.
It was Vanek's fifth winner this season, including in overtime Thursday night in a 3-2 semifinal victory against Michigan.
Barry Tallackson scored twice against New Hampshire, including an empty-netter, as the Golden Gophers became the first team to repeat since Boston University won in 1971 and '72.
Matt DeMarchi and Jon Waibel also scored, and Travis Weber stopped 26 shots. The Gophers (30-8-9) joined Wisconsin and Denver with five titles. Michigan is first with nine, followed by North Dakota with seven.
Sean Collins scored for New Hampshire (28-8-6), which was denied its first championship despite making its fourth Final Four appearance in six years and seventh overall. The Wildcats lost 3-2 in overtime to Maine in 1999 in their other final appearance.
Of Vanek's 31 goals, 17 have come in third period or overtime.
"The championship means so much to me," said Vanek, selected most outstanding player. "As for the third-period goals, I don't know. When we're tied or down, I just look at my linemates and say, 'Hey, we've got to step up.' And most of the time it works out. Luck, I don't know."
There was nothing lucky about this one as Vanek put the Gophers ahead for good 8:14 into the third period.
"He's a differencemaker," Gophers coach Don Lucia said of Vanek. "And that's why you work hard to recruit players like that because if Thomas is playing at Michigan or some other program, maybe they're sitting here. And one or two big-time players can make all the difference."
It was the largest margin of victory in a championship since Boston beat Maine 6-2 in 1995.