Monday, March 30, 2009

Beavers Off to Washington!

To paraphrase legendary Dodger announcer Vin Scully's reaction after an injured Kirk Gibson hobbled to the plate and smashed a game-winning homer against Oakland in the 1988 World Series, "in a NCAA Tournament of the improbable, the impossible has occurred." After upset after upset. game-tying goals in the final second of regulation. top seeds being dominated during opening round games in three brackets, and other high drama, the 2009 Frozen Four field is set, and it only contains one team which most believed would have been there as the pairings were announced - unless you were ardent fans of the teams who actually made it!

Boston University snagged a bid, albeit with high drama. The Terriers needed a power play goal by Jason Lawrence with a mere 15 seconds remaining to defeat New Hampshire 2-1 in the Northeast Regional. It was the fourth meeting of the season for the two Hockey East foes and it was a dandy. However, BU prevailed to supply just about the only degree of normalcy to an NCAA tournament rife with abnormality - although the game-winning goal in the final 15 seconds suited the rest of the tourney!

The shocker of the night - and of the tournament in general - came in the second regional final on Sunday in Grand Rapids, MI, where Bemidji State scored three times in the third period to break a 1-1 tie to crush Cornell 4-1. Tyler Scofield scored the game-winner and added an empty-netter to pace the Beavers. BSU out-scored Notre Dame and Cornell 9-2 in the regional and now become the first team from outside the four "major conferences" (WCHA, Hockey East, ECAC, CCHA) to advance to the Frozen Four.

This is truly an amazing feat. BSU was 16-15-1 in regular season play during the 2008-09 season and plays in the four-team CHA conference which will disband after next season. The Beavers were the tournament's #16 seed, and only avoided playing overall #1 seed Boston University because the selection committee did not want #15 seed Ohio State playing #2 seed Notre Dame in the first round, as it avoids first round conference match ups. Still, the prospects of a 16 seed advancing to the Frozen Four should make the "Holy Cross chanters" cease and desist.

Bemidji State has a fabulous new arena on the way for the 2010-11 season and has applied for admission to the WCHA. This would create a numbers problem for the WCHA (11 teams), but would be great for Minnesota hockey (five WCHA teams).

Those questions can be reserved for a later post. For now, congratulations to coach Tom Serratore and the BSU Beavers on achieving the impossible and for being the only Minnesota team left standing in the NCAA Tournament.

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