2007 NCAA Tournament review

By DJ Powers

Last weekend’s tournament started off with 16 NCAA teams and is now down to four. Some fantastic finishes, lots of memorable prospect performances and a few surprises highlighted this year’s NCAA Regionals Tournament. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that none of the top-seeded teams advanced to the Frozen Four and three of the four teams who did were third seeds while the other was a second seed.

Here’s a look back at how it all went and which teams are headed to St. Louis in two weeks.

EAST REGIONAL

Top-seeded Clarkson and #4 UMass got the NCAA Tournament started on Friday at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY. It was a low scoring affair that featured an outstanding goaltending duel between junior David Leggio for Clarkson and sophomore Jon Quick (LA) for UMass. The two teams combined for 71 shots on goal but allowed just one. That lone goal became the eventual game-winner at the 7:40 mark of overtime off of the stick of UMass senior Kevin Jarman (CBJ), who netted his ninth of the year to send the Minutemen to the regional championship game in their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance.

UMass did an excellent job of containing Clarkson’s high-powered offense, which came into the tournament as the nation’s fifth best and averaging 3.58 goals per game. Quick was excellent between the pipes, stopping all of Clarkson’s 33 shots, including 18 in the second period alone for his third shutout of the season. On the other side, Leggio was almost equally up to the task, stopping 37 of 38 shots in the losing cause. Sophomore Chris D’Alvise and junior Steve Zalewski (SJ) led Clarkson with five shots apiece. UMass would meet the winner of the regional’s other semi-final match between the Huskies and the Black Bears.

#2 St. Cloud State faced off against #3 Maine in the regional’s late semi-final game. The game marked the return of behemoth sophomore goaltender Ben Bishop (STL) for Maine. The Des Peres, MO native got off to a bit of a shaky start in his return, allowing senior defenseman Justin Fletcher to get the Huskies on the board first at the 3:39 mark of the opening period. However, that would be all that St. Cloud State would get as the Black Bears would go on to score four unanswered goals (three of which came in the first period) en route to a 4-1 win. Special teams would play a major role in Maine’s victory as two of their three goals came with the man-advantage, adding to their nation-best power play that came into the NCAA Tournament clicking at over 25 percent.

In addition, the Black Bears successfully killed off all nine of St. Cloud State’s power play opportunities. Senior Brent Shepheard tied the game at the 7:21 mark when his shot banked off of a St. Cloud State player’s skate and past senior goaltender and Hobey Baker finalist Bobby Goepfert (PIT) for the score. Junior Billy Ryan (NYR) netted the eventual game-winner just over a minute later at the 8:11 mark with his 13th of the season. Junior Rob Bellamy (PHI) picked a great time to score his first goal of the year at the 17:08 mark of the second period when he buried Shepheard’s rebound shot. Bishop was stellar in his return and picked up right where he left off, stopping 33 of St. Cloud State’s 34 shots in the win.

Maine would next face UMass in the regional championship game on Saturday in a rematch of the Hockey East quarterfinals from two weeks ago. Unlike that series, UMass would have to contend with getting pucks by Bishop this time around. Once again, special teams would be a factor in deciding the outcome of the contest and once again Maine would record two of their three goals on the power play. The opening period did not see a goal scored but did feature some terrific saves by Bishop and Quick. In the second period, Maine would get on the board first during a four-on-four situation at the 4:42 mark. Diminutive junior defenseman Bret Tyler tallied his sixth of the season off of a rebound off of a Minutemen player that got by Quick.

Senior Mike Hamilton (ATL) posted what would become the game-winning power-play goal at the 9:45 mark of the second period. The tally was Hamilton’s ninth of the season. UMass outshot Maine in the middle frame but failed to capitalize. That would change late in the period when senior and team captain Matt Anderson tallied UMass’ lone goal on the power play at the 18:14 mark off of a redirected shot. Sophomore defenseman Matt Duffy (FLA) would add an insurance power play goal at 6:28 mark of the third period for Maine. The tally was Duffy’s fifth of the season and a new career-high. Senior and team captain Michel Leveille was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after netting three points (one goal, two assists) in helping to guide the Black Bears to their second consecutive Frozen Four appearance.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM

G: Ben Bishop (STL), Maine
D: Mike Lundin (TB), Maine
D: Bret Tyler, Maine
F: Matt Anderson, UMass
F: Kevin Jarman (CBJ), UMass
F: Michel Leveille (Most Outstanding Player)

MIDWEST REGIONAL

Top-seeded Notre Dame opened the Midwest Regional at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, MI on Friday against #4 Alabama-Huntsville in a semi-final game that turned out to be the longest and one of the most memorable of all the regional games this weekend. The contest was the third longest in NCAA Tournament history, taking 94:42 minutes to complete.

The Fighting Irish staked out to an early 2-0 lead in the first five minutes of the game. Senior Josh Sciba got things started for Notre Dame at the 3:18 mark with his eighth of the season. Freshman Ryan Thang followed up with his 19th goal of the season on a nice wrister that beat Alabama-Huntsville rookie netminder Blake MacNicol at the 4:26 mark. Thang’s goal would see MacNicol get pulled in favor of senior Marc Narduzzi. The move would help to turn the tide for the Chargers. Alabama-Huntsville would come back in the second period with two goals of their own. The first came on an odd-man rush for Alabama-Huntsville that was finished by senior Dominik Rozman for his sixth of the season at the 10:20 mark to cut Notre Dame’s lead. Freshman Cale Tanaka would even things up at the 16:16 mark with a beautiful wrist shot that beat Fighting Irish senior goaltender and Hobey Baker finalist David Brown (PIT). The tally was Tanaka’s second of the season.

Narduzzi was brilliant in the third period, stopping all 11 Notre Dame shots to force overtime. At the end of the first overtime, the score was still tied. The turning point of the game would come at the 14:13 mark of the second overtime when Chargers sophomore defenseman Scott Kalinchuk would be called for holding the stick. That would be the break that Notre Dame was looking for and at the 15:18 mark, Thang would post his second goal of the game and 20th of the season on a blistering shot that beat Narduzzi just under the cross-bar on the blocker side to end Alabama-Huntsville’s miraculous post-season run. Despite not being named to the All-Tournament team, Narduzzi turned in a spectacular 49-save performance in the loss. Notre Dame would next face the winner of the other regional semi-final match between the Terriers and the Spartans.

#2 Boston University faced off against #3 Michigan State in the other regional semi-final contest that was delayed due to the length of the Notre Dame/Alabama-Huntsville game. The Terriers offensive woes and the stellar play of diminutive sophomore goaltender Jeff Lerg would play decisive roles in helping Michigan State to advance a step close to the Frozen Four. Boston University drew first blood when junior Ryan Weston flipped a shot over Lerg for his second of the year at the 6:05 mark in the first period. The goal would be all that Spartans would allow. Sophomore Tim Kennedy (BUF) would get the equalizer at the 12:51 mark on a four-on-three power play.

The second period saw Michigan State take over the momentum of the game, getting three unanswered goals from sophomore Tim Crowder (PIT), freshman Jay Sprague and junior defenseman Daniel Vukovic to extend their lead to 4-1 before capping the game with a fifth goal off of the stick of Crowder in the third period. A lack of discipline also contributed to Boston University’s demise. Towering senior defenseman Tom Morrow (BUF) and freshman forward Luke Popko were both ejected for checking from behind and spearing respectively in the latter two periods. Despite giving up five goals, senior goaltender and Hobey Baker finalist John Curry turned in an admirable performance for Boston University in the losing cause.

Michigan State would next face Notre Dame in the regional championship game. The two CCHA teams last met back in mid-November when the home-and-home series ended in a split. While the Spartans have had to contend with some inconsistencies this season, they played a near-perfect game against the Fighting Irish on Saturday and accomplished something that few other teams were able to do this season – exposing some of Notre Dame’s vulnerabilities and capitalizing on them. With the marathon game that took place the night before, Notre Dame also had to contend with fatigue, particularly in the third period. After a scoreless opening period, things really began to pick up. About two minutes into the second period, Michigan State lost Vukovic to what appeared to be a knee injury after going awkwardly into the boards. At the 6:04 mark, junior Chris Mueller tallied his 14th goal of the season on the power play to stake Michigan State to a 1-0 lead.

Some uncharacteristic lack of discipline on the part of the Fighting Irish would come back to haunt them in the third period. At the 5:59 mark, sophomore Tim Kennedy (BUF) would tally the eventual game-winner on the power play. The goal was his team-leading ninth power play tally of the season. At the 14:52 mark, junior Evan Rankin would cut Michigan State’s lead to 2-1 with his fourth of the year. That would be as close as Notre Dame would get as the Spartans hung on for the 2-1 win to advance to their first Frozen Four since 2001. Michigan State goaltender Jeff Lerg turned in an outstanding performance, combining to stop 46 of 48 shots in the tournament to earn the Most Outstanding Player honor.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM

G: Jeff Lerg, Michigan State (Most Outstanding Player)
D: Tyler Howells, Michigan State
D: Wes O’Neill (NYI), Notre Dame
F: Tim Kennedy (BUF), Michigan State
F: Chris Mueller, Michigan State
F: Ryan Thang, Notre Dame

NORTHEAST REGIONAL

In the first semi-final game, top-seeded New Hampshire took on #4 Miami up at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester. NH. The return of senior Brett Hemingway (COL) to the Wildcats lineup did little to stifle an aggressive Miami RedHawks team. Junior and Hobey Baker finalist Nathan Davis (CHI) posted his 21st goal of the season at the 1:47 mark of the opening period to stake Miami out to an early lead. The RedHawks did an outstanding job of containing New Hampshire’s potent offense throughout the game, including holding the Wildcats dangerous line of sophomores Trevor Smith and Jerry Pollastrone and junior Matt Fornataro scoreless.

Miami would extend their lead at the 39 second mark of the third period when junior Ryan Jones (MIN) got a shot through the legs of Wildcats junior goaltender Kevin Regan (BOS) for what would become the eventual game-winner on his 29th of the season. The goal and assist that Jones posted in this contest was his 12th multi-point game of the year.  At the 15:15 mark, junior Mike Radja would finally get New Hampshire on the board with a shorthanded tally on a great individual effort, flipping a shot over RedHawks sophomore goaltender Jeff Zatkoff (LA) for his 19th of the season.

The Wildcats would throw everything they had at the Miami net in the final minutes of regulation but Zatkoff was up to the task to preserve the RedHawks 2-1 win. The Chesterfield, MI native was excellent in goal, stopping 43 of 44 shots to backstop Miami to the regional championship game the following day.

Miami would go on to meet the winner of the other regional semi-final between #2 Boston College and #3 St. Lawrence. The Eagles came into the contest as the nation’s hottest team, riding a 10-game winning streak, but the Saints would make sure that Boston College worked for their win. The tenacious St. Lawrence offense got off to a strong start, forcing Eagles junior goaltender Cory Schneider (VAN) to come with some huge saves to keep the Saints off of the board. Senior and team captain Brian Boyle (LA), who continues to play on defense in the post-season, got Boston College off to a very early lead with his 18th of the season at the 1:24 mark of the opening stanza.

The Eagles would extend their lead very early in the second period at the 40-second mark on a power play tally by freshman Ben Smith for his ninth of the season. Less than two minutes later, sophomore Brock McBride would spoil Schneider’s bid for a shutout, notching his ninth of the season at the 2:12 mark to cut Boston College’s lead to one. It would be the closest that the Saints would get as the Eagles would tally two more goals by sophomores Andrew Orpik (BUF) and Brock Bradford (BOS) to seal St. Lawrence’s fate. Despite letting in three goals, freshman Alex Petizian turned in a strong performance in goal for St. Lawrence stopping 31 of the Eagles’ 34 shots in the loss.

Boston College would meet Miami in the regional championship game on Sunday afternoon. The aggressiveness that the RedHawks showed against New Hampshire in the semi-final carried over to the regional championship against Boston College, but the loss of one of their top players would become one of the turning points of the game. At the 3:01 mark of the opening period, Miami senior Marty Guerin (LA) would be ejected for delivering a check from behind on Boston College sophomore defenseman Tim Filangieri. Guerin had been moved to play up with juniors Nathan Davis and Ryan Jones on the RedHawks top line earlier in the season, creating one of the most potent trios in all of college hockey. After a scoreless first period, Miami came out attacking again in the second period.

However, it would be Boston College who would draw first blood. At the 3:00 mark, senior Joe Rooney tallied the first of his two goals in the game for his 14th of the season. He would strike again less than three minutes later at the 5:44 mark on the power play to extend the Eagles lead 2-0. Freshman Kyle Kucharski and sophomore Benn Ferriero (PHO) would tally two more goals to preserve Boston College’s 4-0 win. Schneider was sensational in goal, stopping all 37 shots to post his 15th career and nation co-leading seventh shutout of the season. He was named the regional’s Most Outstanding Player combining to stop 61 of 62 shots on the weekend and backstopping Boston College to a return trip to the Frozen Four.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM

G: Cory Schneider (VAN), Boston College (Most Outstanding Player)
D: Brian Boyle (LA), Boston College
D: Mitch Ganzak, Miami
F: Brock Bradford (BOS), Boston College
F: Ryan Jones (MIN), Miami
F: Joe Rooney, Boston College

WEST REGIONAL

This regional was billed by many to be the toughest bracket and it didn’t disappoint. The regional began on Saturday afternoon with top-seeded Minnesota facing off against #4 Air Force at the Pepsi Center in Denver. CO. The game would have reminiscences of the Golden Gophers meeting of Holy Cross in last year’s West Regional semi-final. Air Force came out flying, dominating much of the opening period. Freshman Jeff Hajner got the Falcons on the board first at the 9:55 mark with his 13th of the year on a shot that beat Minnesota senior goaltender Kellen Briggs on the short side. Air Force would keep the pressure on going into the second period, but the talent-laden Minnesota team wouldn’t be held off of the scoresheet for long. At the 9:00 minute mark of the second period, freshman Jay Barriball (STL) would get the equalizer for Minnesota on his 19th of the season on a shot that snuck in between the pads of Air Force freshman goaltender Andrew Volkening.

The Falcons would regain the lead very late in the period when senior Andrew Ramsey buried his 23rd of the season at the 19:23 mark on a five-on-three power play. Air Force would extend their lead to 3-1 early in third period when freshman Brett Nylander completed a nice wraparound goal at the 5:32 mark. Minnesota would get things turned around at about the midway point of the period. They began their comeback with a power-play goal by sophomore Ryan Stoa (COL) at the 11:50 mark. Just over two minutes later, freshman Jim O’Brien would tie the game with his seventh of the season off of a lucky bounce at the 14:05 mark. The Golden Gophers completed their successful comeback just over a minute later when freshman Mike Carman (COL) tallied his eighth of the year at the 15:26 mark for the game-winner. The two teams combined for 68 shots in the game. Both goaltenders put on outstanding performances. Minnesota would next face the winner of the regional’s other semi-final game between the Wolverines and the Fighting Sioux.

The later semi-final match pitted #2 Michigan against #3 North Dakota in a rematch of last year’s West Regional semi-final. The game saw the most combined goals scored of any regional tournament game this year with 13, tying the NCAA record. The Wolverines got off to a quick two-goal in the opening minute on goals by a pair of Phoenix Coyotes prospects in junior Kevin Porter and freshman Chris Summers. At the 3:05 mark, senior and team captain Chris Porter (CHI) would answer for North Dakota on his ninth of the season. The tremendously successful North Dakota power play would play a large part in Michigan’s demise. Porter’s tally was the first of five power-play goals for the Fighting Sioux in the contest. Less than two minutes after Chris Porter’s tally, senior T.J. Hensick (COL) would restore Michigan’s two-goal lead at the 4:58 mark on a nice move around North Dakota sophomore defenseman Taylor Chorney (EDM) to slide the puck between junior goaltender Philippe Lamoureux’s pads for his 22nd of the season. At the 14:36 mark, North Dakota would cut into Michigan’s lead once again thanks to a deflection by Chris Porter on the Fighting Sioux’s second power play tally.

That began a three-goal comeback for North Dakota in a span of just over four minutes. At the 16:28 mark, sophomore T.J. Oshie (STL) would tally the first of his three goals to tie the game up at 3-3. At the 18:47 mark, his linemate sophomore Jonathan Toews (CHI) would put North Dakota ahead for the first time in the game with his 17th of the season on another Fighting Sioux power play. Michigan would get the equalizer at the 14-second mark of the second period with Hensick’s second of the game and 23rd on the season. Less than a minute later, sophomore Andrew Cogliano (EDM) would restore Michigan’s lead off of a turnover by Lamoureux.

That would be all that the Wolverines would get for the remainder of the game. North Dakota began its comeback once again at the 3:16 mark, when junior defenseman Robbie Bina tallied his ninth of the season on another North Dakota power play to tie the game at 5-5. Junior Rylan Kaip (ATL) would notch what would become the game-winner on his fifth of the season at the 4:53 mark. Oshie would complete the scoring and his hat trick with a pair of special teams goals in each of the final two periods. One came on the power play and the other came short-handed. The eight goals North Dakota scored fell one shy of the team record for most in the NCAA Tournament.

The stage was now set for the classic WCHA showdown as archrivals Minnesota and North Dakota would meet for the regional championship in a rematch of this year’s WCHA Final Five Tournament Championship game one week ago. Minnesota drew first blood when freshman Mike Carman (COL) notched his ninth of the season on a shot that beat Lamoureux short side at the 2:20 mark. Sophomore and Hobey Baker finalist Ryan Duncan would answer for North Dakota at the 6:49 mark with his 31st of the season, sliding the puck past Minnesota sophomore goaltender Jeff Frazee (NJ). As was expected, the contest got very chippy at times. While the teams skated to a scoreless middle stanza, both had their opportunities.

At about the midway point of the period, senior defenseman and team captain Mike Vannelli (ATL) appeared to have given Minnesota a 2-1 lead but the goal was waived off much to the dismay of the Golden Gophers due to a crease violation called on sophomore Blake Wheeler (PHO). North Dakota would jump out to their first lead of the game early in the third period when Bina scored a power play goal off of a beautiful feed from Toews at the 2:08 mark. Minnesota would get a golden opportunity to not only tie the game but take over the lead as well when North Dakota junior defenseman Kyle Radke was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a check from behind on Golden Gophers rookie defenseman Erik Johnson (STL). The Fighting Sioux did an excellent job of killing off the major penalty but Minnesota would continue to find a way to tie up the game once again. Their efforts would finally pay off at the 13:11 mark when freshman Jay Barriball (STL) tallied a power-play goal on a nice one-timer that beat Lamoureux.

As regulation time wound down, both Lamoureux and Frazee were forced to come up with huge saves as each team peppered the netminders with several excellent chances. The extra session saw North Dakota take territorial control for much of the remainder of the game. Then at the 9:43 mark, senior and team captain Chris Porter (CHI) would become the hero for North Dakota tallying the game-winner that would send the Fighting Sioux to their third consecutive Frozen Four. Porter finished a nice cycling play with a wraparound shot that snuck by Frazee for the score. The Thunder Bay, ON native was superb in the tournament, posting a combined three goals and an assist to earn the regional’s Most Outstanding Player honor.

ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM

G: Philippe Lamoureux, North Dakota
D: Robbie Bina, North Dakota
D: Mike Vannelli (ATL), Minnesota
F: Mike Carman (COL), Minnesota
F: T.J. Oshie (STL), North Dakota
F: Chris Porter (CHI), North Dakota (Most Outstanding Player)

The Frozen Four semi-final games are now set and will take place on April 5 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, MO. Michigan State University will face the University of Maine in the first semi-final game, while Boston College will face the University of North Dakota. Both contests will be carried live on ESPN2.

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future.  Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.