And now, making a special return engagement on KCSB...for one week only...it's...the ECAC hockey report!
The ECAC was well represented in this year's NCAA tournament, with ECAC regular season champions and playoff runners-up Clarkson winning the top seed in the Eastern regional, playoff champions and regular season runners-up Cornell seeded sixth in the East, while the third-place Vermont Catamounts, despite being upset in the ECAC quarterfinals, garnered an at-large bid and the third seed in the East.
The Catamounts were the first ECAC team to see action, playing the late game Friday in Worcester, MA. Just as New Hampshire two years ago, UVM had a week's rest before the NCAAs, thanks to an early departure from the conference postseason, and just like the '94 Wildcats, they faced a sixth-seeded Denver team from the WCHA. UVM came out cold, but managed to give up only one goal on the 14 shots they faced in the first period, tied it up late in the session. The teams then traded leads for most of the game, but DU pulled away in the third with three unanswered goals to prevail 6-3. The loss ended the storied careers of Catamount forwards Martin St. Louis and Eric Perrin, along with goalie Tim Thomas, who played nearly every game in his four-year career at Vermont. None of them played their best game that night, with the French Connection combining for a single point, and Thomas giving up five goals on thirteen shots in the last two periods. This was a dissapointing end to a season in which UVM were heavily favored to take the ECAC and picked by some to win it all.
Saturday afternoon in Grand Rapids Michigan, the Big Red of Cornell took the ice against third-seeded Miami University from Oxford, Ohio. The seedings were somewhat deceptive, and the two teams were similarly ranked overall, but Miami, the second place finisher in the CCHA, was moved up and Cornell down to avoid some conference matchups. Miami and Cornell met last November in Ithaca, with the Redskins emerging as 5-4 victors. This time, the teams played an extremely close game, gaining a goal a piece in each of the first two periods, before Cornell's Ryan Moynihan buried the game-winner eight minutes into the third. Big Red captain Matt Cooney added the empty-netter to cap the 4-2 victory, Cornell's first win in the national tournament since 1991.
In Saturday's afternoon game in Worcester, the Golden Knights of Clarkson, considered the ECAC's best hope in the tournament, were shocked by the Colorado College Tigers, another pesky WCHA at-large team, who had knocked off fourth-seeded New Hampshire the night before. CC led 4-0 at the end of the first period, with Knight goaltender Dan Murphy, runner-up for the Dryden award, saving only three shots. Clarkson finally woke up in the second with Jean-Francois Houle scoring on the power play, but the Tigers went up by four again in the third. The Knights scored two goals in under a minute seven minutes into the period, and Houle scored again with Murphy pulled for the extra attacker, but it was too little, too late.
So, five games into the tournament, all four contests had been won by the lower seed: the three Eastern games saw Western teams pull off the upsets, with an Eastern team winning the first game in the West Regional. Denver almost made it a clean sweep for the Colorado teams, but Hockey East champion Boston University pulled out the 4-3 overtime victory with a three-on-three goal.
Sunday dawned with Cornell as the only ECAC team left alive, and they had a tough challenge in WCHA champion and two-seed North Dakota. The Red were outshot 17-8 in the first period, and Jason Elliott had to face several odd-man rushes, but the Sioux got their first goal thanks to a bit of luck, when Cornell's Jason Dailey, trying to clear a loose puck out of the crease, managed to bounce it off a teammate into his own net. North Dakota made it 2-0 on Kevin Hoogsteen's power-play tally, but senior Tony Bergin answered with a power-play goal of his own in the last minute of the period. North Dakota made it 3-1 early in the second, but again Cornell refused to let them pull away, with Matt Cooney deflecting Kyle Knopp's shot past Sioux goalie Aaron Schweitzer. North Dakota had an apparent fourth goal waved off on by the video judge, who ruled that it had been directed into the net by a glove. In the third, North Dakota's Hobey Baker candidate Jason Blake went off with a separated shoulder, and it seemed to inspire the team, as they added two goals in just over four minutes to put the game away at 5-2. An empty-netter made it 6-2 and ended another year of ECAC hockey.
With Michigan claiming the other spot in the semifinals by prevailing 7-4 over Minnesota (6-3 winners against Michigan State) in the all-Big-Ten bracket, the field is set for the "Frozen Four" in Milwaukee. Colorado College will face North Dakota in an all-WCHA semifinal, while Michigan will play Boston University in a battle between the CCHA and Hockey East champs, and a rematch of last year's semifinal. After a weekend of spotty television coverage for the regionals--the games were blacked out on mini-dishes, but not the big ones, and in a move reminiscent of the Heidi bowl, Midwest Sports Channel pre-empted the second half of the Denver-BU game with a pep rally for the not-yet-arrived victorious Minnesota basketball team--both semifinals will be on eSPn2 and Saturday's national championship game will be on ESPN. Radio broadcasts of all three games can also be heard live on the internet at http://www.audionet.com/schools/ncaa/hockey. The CC-North Dakota game will begin at 10am Pacific on Thursday, with the Michigan-BU matchup at 4:30. Saturday's final faces off at 10:00.
And with the NCAA tournament report, I'm Joe Schlobotnik.