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Good hockey played in the league finals last night (long) by wearendhockey
Big Ten was a back and forth affair with Minnesota leading twice, 1-0 and 3-2. Michigan came back with goals 34 seconds apart in the second for a 2-1 lead. The game was tied 2-2 going into the third. MN scored 1:57 into the final period but Michigan came back with goals 5 minutes and 11 minutes in, and held on to win 4-3.
Playing for the 16th seed were Canisius and Holy Cross (I bet RIT wishes the auto bid went to the regular season winner...). Canisius won 3-0 but the game was close throughout. The Golden Griffins broke a scoreless tie with a goal late in 2nd period, and then added two empty-netters in the final 90 seconds. A month ago Canisius was barely hanging on to an Atlantic Hockey playoff spot (they only take the top-8 teams) but rode a good finish to secure a 4th place finish and now find themselves in their 2nd NCAA tournament. I wonder if Minnesota remembers what Holy Cross did to them in their second NCAA appearance?
13 win Colorado College hung tough with St. Cloud for 2 period in the NCHC final, but 2 goals in just under 4 minutes in the 3rd gave St.Cloud a comfortable 3-0 lead, and they never let a pretty severely out-manned CC team mount any sort of a comeback, and secured the shutout win. CC had a nice run, sweeping Western Michigan on the road (the only time in program history the Tigers swept a road playoff series) then beating Denver on Friday to make the NCHC final. It's nice to see a team like CC make some noise in that conference.
Not that this has anything to do with anything, but is there a team out there who hates the conference shuffling from 10 years ago more than Miami? 10 NCAA bids in 12 seasons from 2004-2015, but apart from their second year in the NCHC Miami has absolutely sucked for a full decade now. They finally canned Rico after three straight 20 loss seasons, and his replacement, Chris Bergeron, has yet to even equal Blasi's worst season in wins 4 years later. After 5 straight 20 win seasons and taking Bowling Green to their first NCAA tournament since Jerry York did it 30 years earlier, Miami and Bergeron have averaged just 7 wins a season in Bergeron's 4 years there (28-90-13). Karma perhaps? Notre Dame can't be the only team Blasi had his players headhunt. At least 3 Irish hockey players suffered head injuries against Miami. Ted Ruth and Ian Cole were victims of head shots, and Eric Ringel had his career ended by concussions, including at least one versus Miami. I'm not sure about Stephen Johns, but his unfortunate history of concussions is well-documented and led to an early retirement from the NHL. He too may have been a victim of theirs after sharing a conference for three seasons.
Boston University and Merrimack played a Hockey East final knowing both teams were almost certainly moving on (BU had locked up one of the 2 seeds and it would have taken a lot of upsets for MC to miss out). The two teams traded goals and took a 2-2 game to overtime where BUs Lane Hutson scored his second goal of the night 1:57 into the extra session, giving BU the 3-2 win. That goal was the freshman's 47th point of the season. 47 points is as many points as Notre Dame freshmen not named Landon Slaggert have scored IN THE LAST 3 SEASONS COMBINED.
Colgate was playing for their NCAA tournament life in Lake Placid and took a 2-0 first period lead on Harvard. The Crimson were another team playing a conference final who knew they were playing for hardware mostly. The teams traded 2nd period goals and Harvard made it a 1 goal game in the third, but Colgate held on for the 3-2 win, and will be the tournament's 15th seed.
The best game of the evening was the CCHA final. Northern Michigan knew it was win or go golfing. The way the games played out over the last couple of nights, Minnesota State also needed a win or their season would have been over, due to Colgate stealing one of the potential at-large positions. For the first 57 minutes things did not look good for Minnesota State, as Northern had them throttled up and Wildcats goalie Beni Halasz (he's from Hungary so probably not related to the former hockey administrative assistant Sue Halasz) turned away every Maverick shot he saw. Minnesota State also was 0-5 on the power play, including over a minute of a 5X3 in the third period. Northern had taken a 1-0 first period lead and 7 minutes into the 3rd extended it to a 2-0 game. But with the extra attacker on the ice Minnesota State finally broke through with 2:19 left when Ondrej Pavel scored for the Mavs, making it a one goal game. Just over a minute later and with only 57 seconds remaining in their season, Minnesota State's Christian Fitzgerald knotted the game at two-all, sending the game into overtime. The comeback win was secured just a minute into the the overtime when Zach Krajnik scored, giving the Mavs the 3-2 win and their 5th straight NCAA bid. The last two ended in the Frozen Four after failing to win a single game in their first 6 trips to the tournament. And unlike last year's CCHA final, there was no post-overtime controversy. Last year the Mavericks appeared to score an overtime goal, were presented the trophy, fans left the building and the teams were in the process of leaving the stadium. But apparently a new video view of the supposed game winning goal surfaced, showing that in fact it was not scored legally. The conferenced decided, nearly an hour after initially reviewing and determining it to be a good goal, to call the teams back to the ice and resume the game. Minnesota State eventually scored "again" and celebrated what was this time the actual game winner.
The 16 teams in the NCAAs (in order of PWR and auto-bids in caps) Minnesota, Quinnipiac, MICHIGAN (by .000002 in RPI), Denver, BOSTON U, ST. CLOUD, Harvard, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan Tech, MINNESOTA STATE, Western Michigan, Cornell, Merrimack, COLGATE and CANISIUS. The tournament matchups and locations will be revealed at 6:30 on ESPNU, immediately following the NCAA Women's Hockey championship game. Ohio State will be looking for their second straight title, against perennial power Wisconsin.
I wish our favorite team was there, but this is a great tournament no matter what. Every year there are memorable games and great upsets.