NCAA playoff weekend review

By DJ Powers

CHA

On Sunday, the "comeback kids" of Alabama-Huntsville became the first team to officially earn a bid into the NCAA Tournament when they pulled off a stunning come-from-behind 5-4 overtime win over #3 Robert Morris to win the CHA Championship and the first of six automatic bids into the NCAA Tournament on a weekend that was anything but business as usual. 

It all got started on Friday when the fifth-seeded Chargers faced off against #4 Wayne State in the CHA quarterfinal. Senior co-captain Grant Selinger tallied the game-winning power play goal at the 8:39 mark of overtime to cap a thrilling 4-3 come-from-behind win for Alabama-Huntsville. On Saturday, the Chargers faced off against top-seeded Niagara in a rematch of the 2005 CHA semi-finals. Senior defenseman Mike Salekin notched two goals including the game-winner to give the Chargers the 5-3 upset win and move on to the CHA Championship game on Sunday. They would meet the winner of the other semi-final series between #2 Bemidji State and #3 Robert Morris that also took place on Saturday. Sophomore Chris Margott tallied the game-winning power play goal and two assists to lead the Colonials to a 7-5 upset win over the Beavers to advance to their first ever CHA Championship game.

In the wild CHA Championship game on Sunday, Robert Morris staked out to a 4-0 lead at the end of the first period. However, the resilient and persistent Chargers would not go away. Alabama-Huntsville began their comeback in the second period, posting three unanswered goals. The Chargers would tie up the game at 4-4 in the third period on a goal by sophomore defenseman Scott Kalinchuk. Senior centerman David Nimmo would tally the game-winner at 12:30 of overtime with his second of the game to give Alabama-Huntsville their first ever CHA Championship title. This also marks the Chargers first appearance in the NCAA Tournament at the D-I level. All of the team’s three victories in the CHA Tournament were come-from-behind wins.

Atlantic Hockey

The Atlantic Hockey quarterfinals kicked off on Friday with all four top seeds advancing to next weekend’s conference semi-finals in Rochester, NY. All of the matches were single-game eliminations.

Top-seeded Sacred Heart advanced to next weekend’s Atlantic Hockey semi-finals after handing  #9 American International a 4-0 loss on Saturday. Senior Jason Smith (NJ) was perfect in goal, stopping all of the Yellowjackets 16 shots for his first shutout of the season.

The Pioneers will face off against #4 Air Force this Friday in their semi-final game. The Falcons defeated reigning Atlantic Hockey Tournament Champions Holy Cross 3-0 on Saturday. Junior Eric Ehn, a strong candidate for this year’s Hobey Baker Award, tallied two assists to lead Air Force. Ehn now has 62 points on the season, which is tied for first in the nation.

#2 Army defeated #8 Bentley 6-2 on Saturday night to advance to the Atlantic Hockey semi-finals next weekend. Junior Bryce Hollweg (the brother of current New York Ranger Ryan Hollweg) tallied two goals and an assist, including the game-winner for the Black Knights. Hollweg’s game-winner was his team-leading fourth of the season.

Army will next face #3 UConn in their Atlantic Hockey semi-final match next weekend. The Huskies survived a scare from #7 Mercyhurst to hold on for the 5-4 victory. Senior defenseman William Crum tallied two goals; including the game-winner and senior forward Matt Scherer added a goal and an assist to propel UConn into the Atlantic Hockey semi-finals on Friday.

CCHA

Over in the CCHA, all of the best-of-three quarterfinals series ended in sweeps but not all of the top four seeds advanced.

#8 Lake Superior State pulled off a stunning sweep of #3 Miami-OH at Cady Arena in Oxford, OH. Both weekend games ended in identical scores of 2-1. Senior Jeff Rainville notched three of the four goals for the Lakers in the series. The story of the weekend however was the stellar performance of senior goaltender Jeff Jakaitis, who stopped a combined 81 of 83 shots in the two-game set to send Lake Superior State to Joe Louis Arena next weekend for the CCHA semi-finals.

The Lakers will next face top-seeded Notre Dame on Friday. The Fighting Irish swept #11 Alaska in convincing fashion by a combined score of 10-2. Sophomore Erik Condra (OTT), posted five points (all assists) and senior defenseman Wes O’Neill (NYI) notched a pair of goals and an assist, including Saturday’s game-winner, on the weekend to lead Notre Dame. Senior David Brown (PIT) stopped a combined 37 of 39 shots in the sweep. His victories this weekend were his 26th and 27th on the season, a new school record.

#2 Michigan swept #10 Northern Michigan in their series to advance to CCHA semi-finals next weekend. The nation’s top offense lit up the Wildcats for a combined 12 goals in the series. Senior T.J. Hensick (COL) and sophomore Andrew Cogliano (EDM) posted a combined three goals and three assists apiece on the weekend to lead the Wolverines. Hensick, one of the prime candidates for this year’s Hobey Baker Award, notched his second career hat trick on Saturday in Michigan’s 7-4 win. He is now tied for first in the nation in scoring with 62 points.

The Wolverines will face archrival Michigan State in the other CCHA semi-final game on Friday. The fourth-seeded Spartans swept #5 Nebraska-Omaha in their series by a combined score of 8-3. Junior Jim McKenzie (OTT) posted four points (two goals, two assists), including Friday’s game-winner, to lead Michigan State. Sophomore Tim Kennedy (BUF) posted his team-high seventh power-play goal on Saturday that became the eventual game-winner to send the Spartans to Joe Louis Arena next weekend for the CCHA semi-finals. The Mavericks were without the services of senior and team captain Scott Parse (LA) this weekend due to injury.

ECACHL

Like the CCHA, the ECACHL also saw three of the top four seeds advance to next weekend’s conference semi-finals in Albany, NY.

#5 Quinnipiac pulled off a stunning sweep of #4 Cornell at Lynah Rink in arguably the best series of the ECACHL quarterfinals. Sophomore Bud Fisher (brother of current Ottawa Senator Mike Fisher) was superb in goal for the Bobcats, stopping all 23 Cornell shots to earn his second shutout of the season on Friday. Senior defenseman Reid Cashman posted two assists, including one on junior Ben Nelson’s game-winner on Saturday to vault Quinnipiac into the ECACHL semi-finals next weekend. He leads the nation in scoring among defensemen with 40 points (three goals, 37 assists) and ranks third overall nationally in assists.

The Bobcats will next face top-seeded St. Lawrence in the ECACHL semi-finals beginning on Friday. The Saints had little trouble dispatching #8 Colgate, beating the Raiders by a combined score of 11-2. The story for St. Lawrence in the weekend series was the sensational play of sophomores Casey Parenteau and Kevin DeVergilio. Parenteau, a transfer from D-III St. Johns (Minnesota), tallied his first D-I career hat trick to lead St. Lawrence to a convincing 5-1 win on Friday. DeVergilio posted a goal and his team-high 23rd assist to propel the Saints to a 6-1 victory and into the CCHA semi-finals next weekend. Junior goaltender Mark Dekanich (NSH), the backbone of the Colgate Raiders, did not play due to an injury he suffered prior to the weekend.

#2 Clarkson swept #7 Harvard in their series. Junior goaltender David Leggio was brilliant in goal for Clarkson on Friday as he stopped all 27 Harvard shots to earn his second shutout of the season. Juniors Nick Dodge (CAR) and Shawn Weller (OTT) each tallied a goal and an assist in Clarkson’s 3-0 victory. Senior Mike Sullivan (LA) tallied the game-winner on his eighth of the season at the 13:19 mark of the third period to give the Golden Knights a hard-fought 2-1 victory on Saturday to advance to the ECACHL semi-finals next weekend in Albany.

Clarkson will meet #3 Dartmouth in their ECACHL semi-final match on Friday. The Big Green got all they could handle from #6 Princeton before sweeping the Tigers. The story of the weekend for Dartmouth was the outstanding performance of junior J.T. Wyman (MON). The Wayzata, MN native posted a combined five points (three goals, two assists), including both game-winners in the series to lead the Big Green. Ivy League Player of the Year, junior David Jones (COL) posted a combined three goals to help guide Dartmouth into the ECACHL semi-finals next weekend.

Hockey East

Over in Hockey East, all four top-seeded teams advanced to next weekend’s conference semi-finals in Boston beginning on Friday.

Three of the four quarterfinals series began on Thursday, including top-seeded New Hampshire facing off against #8 Providence. After getting lit up for seven goals in their previous meeting with Providence back on Feb. 24, the Wildcats exacted some revenge in a big way thanks in part to the excellent goaltending of junior Kevin Regan (BOS). The South Boston, MA native stopped all 84 Friars shots in the series to post back-to-back shutout wins to propel New Hampshire into the Hockey East semi-finals next weekend. The Wildcats scored a combined 10 goals in the series.

New Hampshire will meet #4 UMass in their semi-final match on Friday. The Minutemen are coming off of their second consecutive weekend sweep of #5 Maine on Friday and Saturday. Sophomore defenseman John Wessbecker (TB) picked the best time to post his first career goal when he tallied the game-winner at the 11:12 mark of the third period to give UMass a 3-2 win on Friday. Sophomore Jon Quick (LA) was brilliant between the pipes for the Minutemen, stopping a combined 73 of 77 Maine shots in the series to help vault UMass into the Hockey East semi-finals. Junior Billy Ryan (NYR) tallied two goals, giving him 30 points on the season, in the losing cause for Maine.

#2 Boston College swept #7 Northeastern in their quarterfinals series, outscoring the Huskies by a combined score of 10-1. Sophomores Brock Bradford (BOS) and Nathan Gerbe (BUF) each tallied five combined points apiece in the series to extended the Eagles winning streak to eight games. Junior goaltender Cory Schneider (VAN) broke Scott Clemmensen’s school record for career shutouts when he posted a perfect 25-save performance on Friday in his 14th career shutout and fifth of the season. Sophomore Benn Ferriero (PHO) exploded for four points (two goals, two assists) on Friday to give Boston College the series sweep and help propel them into the Hockey East semi-finals next weekend.

The Eagles will meet their Commonwealth Avenue archrival Boston University on Friday in their semi-final match. It took the third-seeded Terriers three games to beat #6 Vermont. This was the only conference quarterfinal series to go three games. Freshman Brayden Irwin notched the game-winner and junior goaltender Joe Fallon (CHI) made 20 saves to stake Vermont to a 1-0 lead in the series on Thursday. However, sophomore Brandon Yip (COL) would figure prominently in Boston University’s latter two games. He picked up an assist on junior Peter MacArthur‘s game-winning power play goal on Friday and then tallied the game-winning power play goal at the 9:22 mark of overtime to help lead the Terriers to the Hockey East semi-finals. Yip also became the first player in Hockey East history to post more than one overtime game winner in the conference playoffs. He accomplished the same feat last season against Boston College in the Hockey East Championship game.

WCHA

Out west in the WCHA, the first round of the conference post-season got underway on Friday with five matches in a best-of-three series. Only two of the five matchups would end in sweeps, while one would not only go the distance but also go into the NCAA record books as well.

#7 Wisconsin was one of two teams to sweep their series as they defeated #4 Denver in two very close games at Magness Arena. Senior Brian Elliott (OTT) was superb in the net for the Badgers, allowing three goals on a combined 61 Pioneers shots in the series to backstop the defending National Champions into the WCHA Final Five next weekend. Elliott’s victory on Saturday was his 50th career victory, moving him into a tie for seventh place all time in the Badgers Hockey history books. Senior Jake Dowell (CHI) notched his team-leading 17th goal of the season on Friday night that became the eventual game winner.

Wisconsin will next face #6 Michigan Tech in the WCHA Final Five "play-in" game on Thursday. The Huskies needed three games to defeat #5 Colorado College at World Arena. Two of the three games in this series ended with a shutout win for each team. On Friday, junior Jimmy Kerr tallied the game-winner in overtime to stake Michigan Tech to a 1-0 lead in the series. On Saturday, the Tigers would knot the series at one apiece thanks to an outstanding 29-save performance by senior goaltender Matt Zaba (LA) to give Colorado College a 2-0 victory. The shutout was Zaba’s third of the season and tenth of his career. The Huskies would advance to the WCHA Final Five with a 1-0 victory in the third and deciding game behind a perfect 18-save outing by sophomore goaltender Michael Lee Teslak on Sunday. Freshman Ryan Bunger tallied the game’s lone goal at the 12:59 mark of the first period.

The winner of Wisconsin/Michigan Tech "play-in" game on Thursday will meet top-seeded Minnesota on Friday in the WCHA semi-final. Minnesota got quite a scare from #10 Alaska-Anchorage as the Seawolves took the Golden Gophers to three games in a great series at Mariucci Arena. On Friday, freshman Jay Barriball (STL) tallied two goals, including the game-winning power play goal, to stake Minnesota out to a 1-0 series lead. On Saturday, junior defenseman Luke Beaverson (FLA) became the hero for Alaska-Anchorage when he notched the game-winner in overtime to tie the series 1-1. In Sunday’s third and deciding game, freshman Michael Carman (COL) would get the game-winner on his seventh tally of the season at the 8:44 mark of the third period to help propel the Golden Gophers to the WCHA Final Five.

#3 North Dakota was the other team (along with Wisconsin) to sweep their series. The Fighting Sioux went up against #8 Minnesota State-Mankato and won by a combined score of 7-3. North Dakota’s top line of sophomores Ryan Duncan, Jonathan Toews (CHI) and T.J. Oshie (STL) accounted for seven points (four goals, three assists) in the series. Duncan’s two power play goals brought his season points total to 51, which leads all WCHA players. Junior Rylan Kaip (ATL) tallied the game-winner on his fourth of the season at the 18:28 mark of the second period on Saturday to help lead the Fighting Sioux into the WCHA Final Five next weekend in St. Paul, MN.

North Dakota will meet #2 St. Cloud State in one of the WCHA’s two semi-final matches on Friday. The Huskies endured a grueling but exciting three-game series against #9 Minnesota-Duluth that made for the best finish in all of this year’s NCAA post-season matches to date. On Friday night, two Los Angeles Kings prospects in junior Mike Curry and sophomore defenseman Josh Meyers accounted for two of the three Bulldogs goals, including the game-winner to stake Minnesota-Duluth to a 1-0 series lead. On Saturday, junior Nate Dey tallied the game-winner at the 17:01 mark of overtime to even up the series for St. Cloud State.

It would set up a memorable third and deciding game on Sunday that would end up setting several school records for both teams. The game, which goes down as the fifth longest in NCAA history, featured a spectacular goaltending duel between seniors Josh Johnson for Minnesota-Duluth and Bobby Goepfert (PIT) for St. Cloud State. By the time the game ended, the two netminders would combine to stop 129 of 134 shots on goal. Freshman Andreas Nodl (PHI) tallied the game-winner at the 11:33 mark of the third overtime to give the Huskies the hard-fought 3-2 win. Nodl’s goal was his 43rd point of the season, which leads all WCHA rookies. It was also his St. Cloud State school-record tying fifth game-winner of the season. For St. Cloud State, their 65 shots on goal and 69 shots allowed by the opposition are both new school records. For Minnesota-Duluth, their 69 shots on goal was a new school record. Sunday’s contest was the Bulldogs’ 11th overtime game this season, tying a school record.

A quick look at next weekend

The remaining five automatic bids will be up for grabs during next week’s Conference Championship weekend. All conference semi-final games will take place on Friday with the winners facing off for the Conference Championships and the coveted automatic bids on Saturday. This year’s NCAA Tournament brackets, including the recipients of the ten at-large bids will be announced and carried live on ESPN2 on Sunday.

Below is how each of teams in the upcoming Friday matches, except Michigan Tech/Wisconsin on Thursday, fared against one another in head-to-head regular season competition.

In Atlantic Hockey, Sacred Heart tied both games against Air Force 3-3 and 1-1 respectively back in December. Army went 3-0-1 against UConn in four regular season meetings with the most recent coming in late January.

In the CCHA, Notre Dame swept Lake Superior State in their only two meetings of the regular season back in mid-January. This weekend’s match will see Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson facing the team that he helped guide to two National Championships back in 1992 and 1994. Michigan and Michigan State split their five regular season meetings, each posting two wins and the most recent meeting back on Feb. 10 ending in a 3-3 tie.

In the ECACHL, St. Lawrence swept Quinnipiac in their two regular season meetings, with the most recent coming back on Feb. 24 in Hamden, CT. Clarkson won and tied Dartmouth in their two regular season meetings. The most recent contest back on Jan. 26 ended in a 4-4 tie at Cheel Arena.

In Hockey East, New Hampshire went 1-2 in their three regular season meetings with UMass. The Minutemen shut out the Wildcats 3-0 in their most recent meeting back in mid-January. Boston College split their four regular season meetings with Boston University. The most recent ended in 2-1 win in overtime for the Terriers in the Beanpot Championship game back on Feb. 12.

In the WCHA, Michigan Tech swept their only two regular season meetings with Wisconsin, defeating the Badgers by a combined score of 6-2 up in Houghton, MI. North Dakota went 2-0-2 in their four regular season meetings with St. Cloud State. The most recent series came just two weeks ago with the Fighting Sioux earning a win and a tie. Minnesota went 3-1-0 in both of their respective four regular meetings with Wisconsin and Michigan Tech. The Golden Gophers last met the Badgers in mid-January while they ended the regular season against the Huskies.

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