Northeast Regional Roundup
by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer
MANCHESTER, N.H. Not even the longest-tenured folks in college hockey have seen an NCAA tournament like this.
Joe Bertagna, Hockey East’s commissioner, and BU head coach Jack Parker have a combined 80 years experience at the NCAA level and both seem mystified at what this tournament has seen.
Two teams held a lead inside of the last second of the third period before falling in overtime.
First on Friday, Princeton led Minnesota Duluth 4-3 before the Bulldogs tied the score with 0.8 seconds left on the clock. Mike Connolly then put the Tigers’ season to rest with a snipe at the 13:39 mark of overtime.
Saturday in Manchester, UNH trailed North Dakota with 5.7 seconds remaining. A shot that sailed wide off the faceoff careened back in front where Thomas Fortney was waiting to pound it past ND goaltender Brad Eidsness with 0.1 left to play. Peter LeBlanc sent the Fighting Sioux home with a goal just 45 seconds into the overtime.
“I got out of college in 1973, so I’ve been around 35 or 40 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Bertagna. “It started in our league tournament. We had BU coming back to beat BC in the third period in a great game. We had UMass Lowell pulling one out in overtime; we had empty-net goals that setup overtimes all throughout our quarterfinals. As a hockey fan, it’s been great.”
The two teams that were supposed to have no shot – Air Force and Bemidji State – both knocked off their No. 1 seeds. The Falcons blanked heavily favored Michigan 2-0 on Friday in Bridgeport, Conn., and the Beavers pounded second-overall seed Notre Dame 5-1 on Saturday night.
Cornell trailed Northeastern 2-1 with 3:56 to play before beating Hockey East Player of the Year Brad Thiessen twice in the final minutes to eliminate the Huskies.
Vermont, which took on Air Force on Saturday for a spot in the Frozen Four, went to two overtimes before winning the game on a goal that at first was never called. Dan Lawson fired a puck that beat Air Force goalie Andrew Volkening with 5:50 left in the fifth period, but it sailed through the mesh and play never stopped. Several minutes later after a whistle and a lengthy 12-minute review, it was ruled the puck went through the net, and the game ended.
And craziness continued last night, with the Terriers going ahead of UNH with just 13.4 seconds left on the clock.
“It really shows parity in college hockey,” said BU head coach Jack Parker. “We’re the only number 1 or number 2 seed going to the Frozen Four, that’s really something. I really can’t ever remember a year like this.”
Bertagna loves the theatrics.
“UNH had a faceoff in the BU end with 3.5 seconds (last night),” he said. “In most cases, people are headed to the exits, but after what has happened this weekend, people were on the edge of their seats wondering if magic would strike again. It’s great.”
Hockey East guaranteed a national title game
With BU’s win last night and Vermont’s win over Air Force on Saturday, the two Hockey East foes will matchup in April 10th’s semifinal at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
It means that Hockey East is guaranteed a participant in the national title game, held April 12th.
”It is a special feeling,” Bertagna said. “We’ve really put an emphasis on this being the 25th anniversary of our league. Our regular season and our tournament lived up to the excitement that has become Hockey East and knowing we’ll have a team in the national title game is fitting. It would really put an exclamation point on the year to win a national title.”