Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bracket Buster Saturday!

Photo and boxscores from
If you filled out a bracket for the NCAA Men's Hockey Tournament and noted the following:
  • Only one of the four top seeds would be alive after the first round;
  • No #2 seeds would be left after Saturday's play;
  • An automatic bid qualifier would absolutely dominate the tournament's #2 overall seed in a game which was not nearly close as the four-goal margin dictated;
  • Two games on the first two days would be tied with less than a second remaining in the third period;
  • A regional final would be decided by a lengthy replay review which shows that a blast from the point went through the net in the second overtime period... would be a clairvoyant and/or newly rich person!

Day two of the tournament was as wild, if not wilder, than the opening act on Friday. Two of the four tickets for Washington have been punched and none of the teams were who one would have expected.

  • In the West Regional in Minneapolis, Miami ended UMD's cardiac run with a 2-1 victory. The Redhawks advance to their first-ever Frozen Four appearance. Justin Mercier scored both Miami goals, while the Bulldogs could not replicate the energy they demonstrated in their impossible comeback against Princeton on Friday night.
  • The East Regional in Bridgeport sent Vermont to its first Frozen Four since 1996, with a 3-2 double-overtime victory over upstart Air Force. Dan Lawson's blast from the point fooled Air Force goaltender Andrew Volkening, but appeared to go wide. After a lengthy replay review, the officials determined that the puck actually traveled through the net before hitting the end boards, sealing the victory for the Catamounts. What a horrible way to lose!

So, Miami and Vermont punch the first two tickets to Washington, and await the remainder of the bracket to be filled. In my tournament preview, I actually picked Vermont to advance, but it was more like wishful thinking because I initially did not see many upsets in the field. Boy, was I wrong! Both teams were clearly the class of their brackets and deserve their places in the Frozen Four. Neither team will be a pushover for whomever they play.

Action got underway in the other two regionals on Saturday, and the results were just as unexpected.

  • In the Northeast Regional in Manchester, NH, the fact that New Hampshire won in overtime 6-5 in Manchester is not surprising in and of itself. The manner in which this was accomplished is sheer madness. In the wildest game of the tournament thus far, the Sioux and Wildcats traded goals throughout the game, with UND holding a 5-3 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining in the third period. New Hampshire scored to cut the deficit to one with 9 minutes left, and Thomas Fortney's improbable goal with 0.1 seconds remaining sent the game into overtime. Peter LeBlanc notched a marker at just 45 seconds of overtime to complete the "Miracle in Manchester."
  • UNH will play Boston University, who supplied just about the only ounce of normalcy to the tournament in trouncing Ohio State 8-3. Jason Lawrence and Zach Cohen each scored twice for the Terriers, who now play the Wildcats in a Hockey East conference rematch. BU won 2 of 3 meetings against UNH during the regular season. Despite the game taking place in Manchester, BU is clearly the class of the tournament, and is a tough draw for UNH.
  • In the Midwest, Bemidji State shocked Notre Dame 5-1 in Grand Rapids, giving the Beavers their first-ever NCAA Tournament win (one more than St. Cloud State for all you Huskies' fans!). The game was simply dominated by Bemidji, as Notre Dame suffered breakdown after breakdown throughout. Tyler Scofield scored twice for BSU and also added an assist, while Matt Dalton made 34 saves.
  • BSU will face Cornell, who needed to score twice in the final four minutes, the game-winning goal coming with just 18 seconds left, to upset Northeastern 3-2. BSU and Cornell did not meet in the regular season.

The Frozen Four berth in the Midwest Region will go to either the third or fourth seed, joining fourth-seeded Miami and third-seeded Vermont in Washington. Only Boston U can prevent an all-low seed lineup should it take care of business tomorrow against third-seeded New Hampshire.

By Sunday evening, the field will be all set. The question is, what will happen next. This tournament has been impossible to handicap and intoxicating to watch.

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