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  Sunday, September 21, 2014
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Frozen in History
By Paul Noonan

     Overall, this year’s NCAA Hockey tournament may have been one of the better in recent history.  The tournament saw the biggest upset in its history.  Two inter- city rivals battled it out for the 6th in the season.  Two goalies showed why they’re counted among the best in the league when they went scoreless for over 100 minutes in one game.  It was an exciting tournament to say the least, so here’s a more in- depth look back at how it played out.

             

     It only took one night for the buzz to begin for this tourney.  It appeared as if it would be a fairly uneventful day in Grand Forks, North Dakota.  Highly ranked Minnesota was virtually guaranteed a win against unranked Holy Cross.  Afterwards, North Dakota was ready to use their home- ice advantage to oust Michigan.  Half of that happened.  With the anti- Gopher crowd behind them, the Holy Cross Crusaders pulled off the biggest upset in tournament history, to date, when they edged Minnesota in overtime.  The loss capped a disappointing Minnesota finish which saw them go from 20-1-1 in their last 22 to losing three in a row in a quick postseason exit.  Other than the Minnesota loss all other first round match- ups were fairly expected.  The only ‘upsets’ were BC over Miami (Ohio) and Maine over Harvard, which if the seeding didn’t exist, probably wouldn’t be considered so.

             

     Two unexpected performances came in round two.  The first was more of a negative.  After another great season in their historic rivalry, BU and BC met for the rights to the Frozen Four.  With BU having already won four of the first five meetings, including the Beanpot, again, the bad blood was sure to be boiling.  Yet the match- up disappointed, well maybe not for Eagles’ fans, as BC trounced the Terriers 5-0.  However, back in Green Bay one of the better games of the tournament took place.  It could have come out of a Hollywood movie.  Both teams were adorned in white and red.  Consequently, the crowd was also adorned mostly in those two colors.  Between the pipes for Cornell was the reigning goalie of the year in David McKee.  His counterpart for the game was the best goalie of this season, Brian Elliott.  Both netminders lived up to their billing in this one.  Despite each team’s best attempts, they could not put a single puck over the goal line for five periods.  Finally, after stopping 59 shots, David McKee faltered when Wisconsin’s Jack Skille netted the only goal of the contest in the third overtime. 

             

     So the Frozen Four was set.  Maine vs. Wisconsin and BC vs. North Dakota.  While the former match looked to provide some excitement the bigger spotlight was on the rematch of BC and UND.  After UND bowled over the Eagles last year en route to the finals, the Eagles had their chance at revenge this year.  And the Eagles got it, but in an unusual fashion.  Corey Schneider, who you’d be lucky to score more than two goals against, was in rare form letting up five twine ticklers.  Three shorthanded goals where scored among the two teams.  UND twice came back from big deficits (3-0 and then 5-2) to keep BC on their heels all the way to the finish.  Somehow, BC left the rink with a 6-5 lead, getting their revenge. 

             

     After Wisconsin took care of Maine, they were ready to take aim at their sixth NCAA title, while BC was looking to add a third to their resume.  The game turned out to be another goalies’ duel, as another pair of great goaltenders met again (Elliott and Schneider).  BC got the scoring started when Pat Gannon scored about halfway through the first period.  That was the only puck that would get behind Elliott though.  Wisconsin tied the game early in the second when Robbie Earl, the Frozen Four MVP, put the puck, and himself, in the net.  The rest of the game went back and forth, but special teams finally caught up to the Eagles.  The Eagles’ power play was quite shaky, and their 0 for 4 showing aided in their loss.  However, their inability to stay out of the box themselves inevitably did them in.  Their penalty kill was strong throughout the game, but if you give any team 8 power plays the puck is bound to go in eventually, and on power play number seven the Badgers proved just that.  The second goal was netted almost halfway through the third by Tom Gilbert, and it all the Badgers would need.  BC made it interesting at the end.  In fact, the only thing that kept the Eagles from extending the game to overtime was a four foot piece of red metal.  Nevertheless, it was the Badgers who skated away with the trophy, continuing the WCHA’s dominance with the conference’s fifth title in a row (Minnesota and Denver split the other four).  Their sixth title also puts Wisconsin alone in third place for the most titles in men’s hockey.  Since the girls’ team also won it all, Wisconsin is the royalty of the hockey world this year, wow that was tough to write.  So here’s hoping next year will be even more exciting, with more upsets (maybe a Holy Cross in the Frozen Four), more OTs and hopefully a new champion*.

     * By that I mean anyone but both Wisconsin teams.                       



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