2006 NCAA Tournament review

By DJ Powers

Excellent prospect performances, some fantastic finishes and a monumental upset highlighted this weekend’s NCAA Tournament Regionals. Boston College, Maine, North Dakota and Wisconsin all emerged victorious in their respective brackets and will be moving on to the Frozen Four, which will take place at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, WI beginning on Apr. 6.

The 15th-seeded Holy Cross Crusaders grabbed the headlines over the weekend by pulling off what is regarded as the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history by defeating the talent-laden Minnesota Golden Gophers 4-3 in overtime in the West Regional semi-final on Friday night in Grand Forks, ND. Holy Cross senior and All-West Regional Team selection Tyler McGregor tallied the game-winner just 53 seconds into overtime to get the Crusaders their first-ever NCAA Tournament win. This was also the first time in NCAA Tournament history since it went to the 16-team format that a bracket No. 4 seed has beaten a No. 1 seed. Holy Cross senior goaltender Tony Quesada was outstanding in goal, stopping 35 of 38 shots for the win. The Crusaders also managed to hold junior Ryan Potulny (PHI), the nation’s top scorer, pointless in the contest. Potulny finished the season with 63 points (38 goals, 25 assists).

The most fantastic finish of the regionals came on Sunday when two of the nation’s top defensive teams in Cornell and Wisconsin faced off in the Midwest Regional Final in Green Bay. Freshman Jack Skille (CHI) tallied the lone goal of the game at the 11:13 mark of the third overtime to give Wisconsin the hard-fought victory. The game featured a spectacular goaltending battle between two outstanding juniors in Wisconsin’s Brian Elliott (OTT) and Cornell’s David McKee. The two netminders faced a combined 100 shots in the game. Elliott, who was named the Midwest Regional MVP, made 40 saves in the win to post his third consecutive shutout of the postseason.

In Saturday’s West Regional final, Holy Cross faced North Dakota for the second time in three years in the NCAA Tournament. Once again, the Crusaders would be a difficult opponent for the Fighting Sioux. Holy Cross put up an excellent battle, staying with North Dakota for much of the game. However, a lack of discipline would prove to be the Crusaders undoing as the Fighting Sioux would go on to a 5-2 victory behind three power play tallies. Junior defenseman and team captain Matt Smaby (TB) notched the game-winning power play goal and added an assist for North Dakota.

In the other West Regional semi-final on Friday, North Dakota faced off against another young team in the Michigan Wolverines and came away with a 5-1 victory thanks in part to some solid performances by three NHL prospects. Freshmen sensations T.J. Oshie (STL) and Jonathan Toews along with standout sophomore Travis Zajac (NJ) each posted a goal and an assist to propel the Fighting Sioux to victory and a step closer to another Frozen Four appearance. Toews, one of the top players eligible for the 2006 NHL Draft and an All-West Regional team selection, leads all players in NCAA Tournament scoring with five points (two goals, three assists) along with points per game (2.50).

In the Midwest Regional semi-final, sophomore Joe Pavelski (SJ) notched his first career hat trick that included two power play tallies to lead Wisconsin to a convincing 4-0 victory over 16th-seeded Bemidji State 4-0 on Saturday. Pavelski was one of four Badgers selected to the All-Midwest Regional Team. Elliott, Skille and senior defenseman Tom Gilbert (EDM) were the other Badgers selections.

Pavelski was also one of two players in this year’s NCAA Tournament Regionals to post a hat trick. 2006 NHL Draft eligible forward and Boston University freshman Chris Higgins notched his first collegiate hat trick in the Terriers crushing 9-2 victory over Nebraska-Omaha in the Northeast Regional semi-finals on Friday in Worcester, MA. Junior defenseman Sean Sullivan (PHO) and freshman forward Brandon Yip (COL) each tallied three assists apiece for Boston University in the win. The Terriers also held one of the nation’s top scorers, Nebraska-Omaha junior Scott Parse (LA) pointless in the game.

In the other Midwest Regional semi-final on Saturday, the eighth-seeded Cornell Big Red rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the 10th seeded Colorado College Tigers 3-2. Senior defenseman Jon Gleed (MON) notched the game-winner at the 9:20 mark of the third period to secure the win. Cornell leading scorer Matt Moulson (PIT) tallied a goal and an assist to help lead the Big Red.

After losing to their archrivals in both the Hockey East Championship game and the Beanpot Tournament this season, the Boston College Eagles exacted some revenge by defeating their Commonwealth Avenue adversary Boston University 5-0 in the Northeast Regional final on Saturday night. Junior Joe Rooney racked up a four-point game that included two shorthanded goals to help guide the Eagles to victory. Sophomore Cory Schneider (VAN) posted his second consecutive shutout of the NCAA Tournament in the win and was named the Northeast Regional MVP.

In their Northeast Regional semi-final on Friday night, Boston College effectively shut down one of the nation’s top defensive teams in the Miami RedHawks with a remarkable 5-0 win. A key contributor in the win was some scoring from areas other than the Eagles top trio. 2006 NHL Draft eligible freshman Benn Ferriero notched two power play goals, including the game winner. Outstanding sophomores Dan Bertram (CHI) and defenseman Mike Brennan also chipped in a goal apiece for Boston College.

The 12th-seeded University of Maine Black Bears became the lowest overall seeded team to advance to the Frozen Four after posting a dominating 6-1 win over Harvard in the East Regional semi-final on Saturday and a wild 5-4 win over Michigan State in the East Regional final on Sunday. The line combination of sophomore Keenan Hopson, junior Mike Hamilton (ATL) and senior John Hopson combined for seven points (three goals, four assists) in the two games to lead Maine to their second Frozen Four appearance in the last three years. Senior and team captain Greg Moore (NYR) posted two timely goals in the two-game Regional set, including the game-winner in Sunday’s victory over the Spartans.

Prior to their loss to Maine on Sunday, Michigan State posted a hard-fought 1-0 victory over the New Hampshire Wildcats in the East Regional semi-finals on Saturday. The game featured an outstanding goaltending duel between New Hampshire senior Jeff Pietrasiak (PHO) and diminutive Michigan State freshman Jeff Lerg. The two netminders faced a combined 66 shots in the contest. The Spartans all-rookie line of Tim Crowder (PIT), Tim Kennedy (BUF) and Justin Abdelkader (DET) accounted for the only scoring in the game. On the weekend, the trio racked up a combined seven points (three goals, four assists). Crowder, an All-East Regional team selection, posted all three goals.

Fourteen NHL prospects, including two MVPs, were named to the respective All-Regional Teams. Below is the list of all the selections.

ALL-REGIONAL TEAMS

West

Goaltender: Jordan Parise, North Dakota
Defenseman: Jon Landry, Holy Cross
Defenseman: Matt Smaby, North Dakota
Forward: Ryan Duncan, North Dakota
Forward: Tyler McGregor, Holy Cross
Forward: Jonathan Toews, North Dakota (MVP)

Midwest

Goaltender: Brian Elliott, Wisconsin (MVP)
Defenseman: Tom Gilbert, Wisconsin
Defenseman: Jon Gleed, Cornell
Forward: Matt Moulson, Cornell
Forward: Joe Pavelski, Wisconsin
Forward: Jack Skille, Wisconsin

Northeast

Goaltender: Cory Schneider, Boston College (MVP)
Defenseman: Peter Harrold, Boston College
Defenseman: Sean Sullivan, Boston University
Forward: Brian Boyle, Boston College
Forward: Chris Higgins, Boston University
Forward: Joe Rooney, Boston College

East

Goaltender: Ben Bishop, Maine
Defenseman: Matt Duffy, Maine
Defenseman: Corey Potter, Michigan State
Forward: Tim Crowder, Michigan State
Forward: John Hopson, Maine (MVP)
Forward: Michel Leveille, Maine


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