Memorable Moments, Part II
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
Part II of the 2007-08 season's memorable moments. (see Part I)
On January 11 at Denver's Magness Arena, time was winding down in a game between the Pioneers and visiting Wisconsin. Denver had staked itself to a 3-0 lead, only to see the Badgers score the next two to make the contest a one-goal affair.
Then, with 3.7 seconds remaining, Wisconsin had a faceoff in the Denver zone. And what happened next had the college hockey community talking for days.
Freshman star Kyle Turris won the faceoff for Wisconsin. Matthew Ford, standing just behind Turris, settled the puck on his stick before firing a wrister through a maze of sticks and bodies. Somehow, the puck found the back of the net.
But referee Randy Schmidt reviewed the video tape and disallowed what would have been a game-tying goal, saying the puck crossed the goal line after time had expired. This decision came despite video evidence to the contrary.
It was later determined that the video review process was mishandled, and the WCHA sent out an official letter of apology stating that the goal should have stood. Still, the WCHA denied the appeal of Wisconsin to have the decision reversed, saying in part, "After a review of both the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules and Interpretations book and the WCHA Handbook, the [review committee] has confirmed Commissioner [Bruce] McLeod's interpretation/decision and affirmed that it is not the prerogative of the Association to change the outcome of a game."
The following week, Schmidt, the official responsible for the blown call, was suspended by the league. Schmidt was also the referee in a December 7 game between Denver and St. Cloud, in which a Denver goal was allowed to stand, despite video evidence of goaltender interference.
A letter of apology was later to sent to St. Cloud after the Huskies lost the game 3-2.
The Centennial State
So much for the CHN Team of the Week curse.
Denver earned the honor the first week of the season, followed the next week by Colorado College. CC went on to win the WCHA regular season title, while Denver won the Broadmoor Cup as WCHA tournament champions — leaving coach George Gwozdecky speechless afterwards.
Denver and Colorado College are joined in the Centennial State by Air Force — incidentally, also a Team of the Week winner earlier this season. The Falcons won the Atlantic Hockey tournament championship despite playing the second half of their season without star player and former Hobey Hat Trick finalist Eric Ehn, who broke his leg in a January game against Colorado College.
All three have also relied heavily on their respective goaltenders this year. Freshman Richard Bachman for CC was named WCHA Player and Rookie of the Year; Denver's Peter Mannino allowed only two goals in his last three games to lead the Pioneers to the WCHA title; and Andrew Volkening for Air Force has been the Falcons' anchor all season.
And most importantly, all three teams advanced to the NCAA tournament, perhaps motivated by the fact that the Frozen Four in April will take place in the Pepsi Center in Denver, right in their own backyards.
First, Colorado College will host a regional this weekend, looking to rebound after losing its last two games.
"I think [the Regional] has been a driving force as much as anything," CC coach Scott Owens told CHN in January. "We want to make sure we get to be in a Regional when we're hosting it. And of course, it just so happens that the Frozen Four is in Denver. I'd be lying if I said that both the Regional and the Frozen Four haven't been in the back of our minds as goals."
Denver coach George Gwozdecky had a slightly different answer this week regarding the motivating factor of a possible hometown Frozen Four appearance.
"It has never been a motivating force for us as far as us talking about it with the team. I think everybody is very aware of it — heck, we've got a huge banner that hangs in our arena. I'm going to guess it's 30 feet by 30 feet. It hangs there with the big NCAA Frozen Four logo on it. So, if you're a freshman on our team or you're a first-time fan of our team and you don't know the Frozen Four is in Denver, just walk in our building, and you'll know.
"Not only was it not necessary for us to talk about the Frozen Four, we have learned that, if you concentrate and set your sights too much on the long-term goal, you have a tendency to bypass or minimize the short-term goals, which in many ways are more important than the long-term goals. This is a long season, but it's important that student-athletes, coaches and administrators realize that it's a day-to-day process."
As far as suspensions go, no one was exempt this season — captains, Hobey Baker finalists, even head coaches.
First, Boston College's Brett Motherwell and Brian O'Hanley were suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. Motherwell then decided to leave BC and sign an American Hockey League contract with the Syracuse Crunch.
From there, the suspensions started coming left and right.
Four Boston University players, including captain Brian McGuirk were hit with suspensions, followed by a half-dozen players at Colorado College — first, for the now-infamous "blackface incident" and then for an ambiguous "student conduct" violation by Derek Patrosso and Cody Lampl. Recently, Kate Crandall of the Colorado Springs Gazette recently uncovered the intriguing truth behind the Patrosso/Lampl suspensions.
The sexual misconduct charges were not limited to Lampl and Patrosso. Maine's Tanner House was suspended by the Black Bears for six games after being charged on Nov. 4 with unlawful sexual touching and assault. These charges were eventually dropped
Meanwhile, Brown freshman forward Harrison Zolnierczyk was dismissed from the team after facing charges resulting from a fall 2006 incident when, according to the Canwest News Service in Canada, Zolnierczyk and then-teammate Bradley Harding made a sex tape with a teenage girl and posted it on the YouTube website. A report later came to light that Brown officials already knew of the incident.
Two of the 10 Hobey Baker finalists were also suspended earlier this year. Boston College forward Nathan Gerbe was suspended for one game for on-ice actions, while North Dakota forward T.J. Oshie was suspended following an arrest for disorderly conduct in an incident involving New Hampshire's Mike Radja, who was also suspended.
Oshie was not the only member of the Fighting Sioux to be suspended this season. Even North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol was reprimanded after flipping his middle finger at referee Don Adam during a game. Hakstol received a two-game suspension.
Finally, two stealing incidents resulted in a suspension and a team dismissal. Vermont's Jonathan Higgins was suspended for six games after stealing a bicycle, and Michigan defenseman Kevin Quick was dismissed from the team and faces criminal prosecution after stealing a teammate's credit card.
Indeed, it was a season like no other in terms of egregious offenses.
Even veteran Boston College coach Jerry York, who leads all active coaches in wins and is second all-time in that category, admitted that he has never seen anything like it.
As if the Kyle Okposo departure didn't create enough questions, we had to deal with the mystery of Denver's Brock Trotter, who compiled 31 points in 24 games this season before an enigmatic exit.
Trotter did not accompany the Pioneers on their weekend trip to Minnesota State on Feb. 1-2. Then, with questions regarding his status swirling, Trotter signed an NHL deal with the Montreal Canadiens just the following week, making Trotter the second high-profile WCHA player to leave for the pro ranks this season.
Trotter was not practicing with Denver during his final days on the team, leading to some speculation that he was facing disciplinary action from the school. Coach George Gwozdecky, who days before had discussed with CHN the importance of character in his recruits, remained silent regarding the real reasons behind Trotter's departure.
Indeed, the Trotter situation remains the most memorable mystery that arose during the 2007-08 season.
Five of the top 20 longest games in college hockey history have occurred within the last three weeks, an amazing fact considering that no other year's March playoff run has more than two spots in the top 20.
These games have provided fans with a memorable playoff season so far, and the NCAA tournament hasn't even kicked off yet. Here's a quick rundown of the five historic games we have already seen during the league playoffs:
On March 14 and 16, Minnesota and Minnesota State played the 15th and 17th longest games in college hockey history, respectively. The first was a double overtime thriller in which Alex Kangas (Minnesota) and Mike Zacharias (MSU) battled through almost five scoreless periods before Maverick forward Trevor Bruess scored a shorthanded goal with just 2:24 remaining in the second overtime session. It was the last victory of the season for coach Troy Jutting's squad, Game 3 of the series was just 37 seconds shorter than Game 1, as Gopher forward Tony Lucia netted the game-winner.
Coming in at No. 11 on the longest games list is the triple overtime marathon in the Hockey East semifinal last weekend between Boston College and New Hampshire, which the Eagles won in triple overtime after appearing to win much earlier. Eagle forward Ben Ferriero scored 43 seconds into the third OT period for the game winner, while goaltender John Muse made 45 saves in the win before leading the Eagles to the Hockey East title the next night.
The final two games this March that made the longest games list occurred during the conference tournament first round weekend. In one, J.P. Platisha of Nebraska-Omaha scored at 4:22 of the third overtime to overcome Alaska in a decisive game three. The game was the ninth longest in college hockey history.
Finally, coming in at No. 8 on the list — and the longest game of the 2007-08 season so far — was the March 7 Game 1 contest between Rensselaer and Yale in New Haven, Conn. Rookie Broc Little scored at 5:40 of the third overtime to lift the Bulldogs to a 3-2 victory. Yale won the series the following night by defeating the Engineers in overtime again.
There were of course many other memorable stories that did not make the Top 10. Though there are of course too many to recount here, these are a few of them:
1. Princeton won its first ECAC title since 1998.
2. Army goaltender John Kassel, who backstopped the Black Knights to the Atlantic Hockey regular season title, led the way for a conference record nine-game unbeaten streak. At one point, Kassel amazingly recorded four shutouts in a five game span.
4. Michigan Tech junior goaltender Michael-Lee Teslak created a stir after indicating on his facebook page that he may leave school at the end of the season. Despite insisting that his choice of wording resulted in a misunderstanding, Teslak indeed signed an NHL deal with the Philadelphia Flyers once the Huskies' season concluded.
5. A game between Canisius and RIT ended in a dramatic brawl, after which 251 penalty minutes were handed out. Later, multiple players received suspensions.
6. Boston College won a thrilling Beanpot championship game, overcoming Harvard 6-5 in overtime. Freshman Nick Petrecki earned his wings by scoring the game-winner for the Eagles.
7. RIT finished the Atlantic Hockey season second in the standings and played in its first-ever Division I postseason. Earlier in the year, the Tigers upset both Cornell and Minnesota.
Now, it's on to the NCAA tournament, where more memories will be made.