NCAA: Frozen Four Tournament Regionals review

By DJ Powers


And then there were four: Denver, Maine, Minnesota-Duluth
and Boston College.


The weekend started out with 16 teams vying for the national
title and now there are only four left. There was some great and at times
heart-stopping hockey that featured some spectacular performances (particularly
by the goaltenders) and some fantastic finishes.


But nothing was the story more than the stunning upset of
the nation’s top ranked team, the North Dakota Fighting Sioux at the hands of
the Denver Pioneers on Saturday night in the West Regionals Finals.


At the 17:31 mark of the third period, junior Luke Fulghum would end North Dakota’s
bid for the title with the game’s only tally. Senior Adam Berkhoel (CHI) was absolutely spectacular in net as he posted
a 33 save shutout win to lead Denver to their first Frozen Four appearance
since 1986. In the second game of the West Regionals semi-finals on Friday
night, Berkhoel was sharp against another outstanding offensive team in the
Miami-Ohio RedHawks as he stopped 21 of 23 shots for the win.


In the other West Regionals semi-finals game, top ranked
North Dakota went up against the Holy Cross Crusaders. Many viewed this as the
most lopsided matchup of the weekend. However, this game was closer than the
score would show. Despite losing the game 3-0, the Crusaders showed remarkable
competitiveness as well as the excellent job by head coach Paul Pearl in
putting together a program that is certainly on the rise. Sophomore Tony Quesada, who was sensational
despite being sacked with the loss, stopped 30 of North Dakota’s 33 shots. Two
of North Dakota’s three goals came courtesy of the “Brady Bunch” line of
freshman Brady Murray (LA),
sophomore Zach Parise (NJ) and
junior Brandon Bochenski (OTT).


In perhaps the wildest game of the regionals, Maine beat
Harvard 5-4 over in the East Regionals semi-finals first game. Sophomore Jimmy Howard (DET), who had been nearly
perfect in net for Maine during the post-season, had perhaps one of his worst
outings of the year that resulted in him being pulled after two periods. At the
19:43 mark of the first period, Harvard junior Brendan Bernakevitch ended Howard’s remarkable streak of eleven
games of not allowing a non-power play goal. Prior to Brenakevitch’s even
strength tally on Friday night, the last time that Howard allowed either an
even strength or short-handed goal was back on December 5th versus
Merrimack. Harvard led the game 4-1 going into the third period, in part thanks
to an outstanding 33 save effort through two periods by junior Dov Grumet-Morris (PHI). However, when
the third period got underway the Crimson began to unravel, as Maine was
relentless in their offensive attack and physical play. Freshman Mike Hamilton (ATL), who has been
outstanding in the post-season, began the barrage of four unanswered goals for
the Black Bears with his tally at the 3:55 mark. Sophomore Greg Moore (NYR) got the game-winner at the 15:50 mark, sending
Harvard home.


Howard got a chance to redeem himself on Saturday night in
the East Regionals Finals versus Wisconsin. He wouldn’t disappoint as he was
back to his old form. Howard and Wisconsin junior Bernd Brückler (PHI) put
on a sensational goaltending battle that helped make for one of the best
matchups of the weekend. With the game tied 1-1 at the end of regulation, it
became an all-out war between the two teams with the intensity and physical
play at its peak. At the 3:27 mark, freshman Mike Hamilton (ATL) would tally the game winner, his second goal
in as many nights on a tremendous individual effort. He outmuscled Badgers
freshman defenseman Ryan Suter (NSH)
to get to the Wisconsin net and get a shot off. However, Hamilton and the Black
Bears had some luck on their side as the puck appeared to have banked off the
leg of Badgers senior defenseman Andy
and trickle behind Brückler for the
score. For Wisconsin, it was a hard loss to take. For Maine, it meant a third
trip to the Frozen Four in four years.


On Friday night, in the East Regionals second
semi-finals game, Wisconsin went up against CCHA Champions, Ohio State. Like
the East Regionals Finals on Saturday night, Wisconsin’s Bernd Brückler 
(PHI) was in a goaltending
duel on Friday night as well. This time it was against OSU sophomore Dave Caruso. At about the 1:39 mark of
the second period, OSU freshman defenseman Matt
appeared to have given the Buckeyes the lead on a short-handed
marker that was shot into the Wisconsin zone and misplayed by Brückler, but the goal was disallowed because the
Buckeyes had failed to clear the zone prior to the goal being scored.
Regulation ended in a scoreless tie. Ohio State had a golden opportunity to put
the Badgers away in overtime when senior Rene
was called for a high-stick at the 6:24 mark. Instead, it would be
Wisconsin senior defenseman Dan Boeser
that would put the Buckeyes away. Boeser tallied off a rebound stick save by
Caruso at the 12:03 to advance Wisconsin to the East Regionals Finals to meet
Maine the following night.


The Northeast and Midwest Regionals semi-finals kicked off
on Saturday. In the first game of the Northeast Regionals semi-finals, Boston
College took on CHA Champions, Niagara Purple Eagles. After a slow start that
saw Niagara senior sniper Joe Tallari
get the Purple Eagles on the board first, Boston College eventually woke up and
not only took over the game, but won it as well. The BC Eagles got the win
thanks to outstanding performances by sophomore Patrick Eaves (OTT) and junior Ryan
, both of whom notched two goals apiece. Niagara sophomore Jeff Van Nynatten was stellar in net as
he stopped 34 of Boston College’s 39 shots in the losing cause. Boston College
junior netminder Matti Kaltiainen
(BOS) was equally stellar as he stopped 26 of Niagara’s 28 shots for the win.


The second Northeast Regionals semi-finals game saw the New
Hampshire Wildcats take on the Michigan Wolverines. While UNH was the host
team, it would be Michigan who would be putting on the show, or more to the
point, a clinic. After a stinging loss to Ohio State in the CCHA title game,
the Wolverines played arguably one of their best games of the season. The
Wolverines dominated and dictated the game from start to finish. Michigan was
effective in virtually every facet of their game, particularly on defense. The
tight-checking Wolverines did an excellent job of shutting done the Wildcats
offensive weapons for almost the entire game. The only goal Michigan allowed
was scored by UNH senior Nathan Martz
(NYR), whose tally came as a result of some tremendous work by fellow senior Steve Saviano to drive to the Michigan
net while fending off a Michigan defender to setup the play. The sensational
play of the Wolverines’ line combination of sophomores Andrew Ebbetts and Brandon
along with junior Milan
(ATL) accounted for three of Michigan’s four goals.


The Midwest Regionals semi-finals kicked off with the
Minnesota Golden Gophers taking on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. After staking
out to a two-goal lead after the first period, the Fighting Irish surrendered
five unanswered goals and eventually the game. Sophomore phenom Thomas Vanek (BUF) was outstanding in
this game as he tallied two goals and an assist to lead the Gophers. Despite
the loss, junior Morgan Cey was
stellar in net for Notre Dame, stopping 40 of Minnesota’s 44 shots in the losing
cause. Notre Dame’s lead scorer senior Rob
(FLA), who assisted on the goal by fellow senior Aaron Gill late in the first period,
caps his sensational collegiate career with single season highs in assists (21)
and points (40).


The second Midwest Regionals semi-finals game saw the
Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs faceoff against the Michigan State Spartans. This was
perhaps the most lopsided match of the weekend in actuality. Minnesota-Duluth
won this game in the most convincing fashion possible. Minnesota-Duluth senior Junior Lessard proved in this game why
he’s Hobey Baker material and has the attention of many NHL teams. Lessard, who
left the WCHA consolation game versus Alaska-Anchorage with a knee injury,
returned to post-season play and scored two goals to lead the Bulldogs. The
Bulldogs also got back junior forward Tyler
and junior defenseman Tim
as well. Both players also missed the WCHA consolation game with
injuries. After staking out to a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period, the
Bulldogs busted out for four more unanswered goals in the second period in
route to a 5-0 win. Michigan State was guilty of some poor defensive play that
in part led to their demise.


The Midwest Regionals Finals of the much-anticipated rematch
of the WCHA Final Five game between the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the
Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs took place on Sunday. With two of the four Frozen
Four participants already known, the Gophers and Bulldogs wanted to be the next
one to earn the trip. The rematch had almost the same intensity as their
previous meeting, but a very different outcome. The Bulldogs didn’t forget what
happened in the Final Five and were determined to exact some revenge on the
Gophers. The game was physical and intense. It also featured some solid defense
and opportunistic plays by Minnesota-Duluth.


The story of the game however was the excellent goaltending
of Minnesota-Duluth sophomore Isaac
. Reichmuth was a nearly an impenetrable wall in net, frustrating
the Gophers on scoring chance after scoring chance. Reichmuth gave up only one
goal in the entire Midwest Regionals. It came on a Minnesota power play at the
5:25 mark. Senior Grant Potulny
(OTT) went top-shelf over Reichmuth’s glove after a beautiful feed from
sophomore Gino Guyer (DAL). Juniors Evan Schwabe and Luke Stauffacher along with senior Jesse Unklesbay scored for Minnesota-Duluth. When the game ended,
so did the Gophers season, and a new national champion would be crowned.
Forwards Grant Potulny (OTT), Matt Koalska (NSH), Troy Riddle (STL) and Jon Waibel along with defenseman Joey Martin (CHI), will all be
finishing off their collegiate careers as one of the University of Minnesota’s
greatest senior classes of all time and will leave a legacy that includes
back-to-back national titles.


With Denver, Maine and Minnesota-Duluth having all earned a
trip to the big dance, the only spot left would come down to Boston College and
Michigan in the Northeast Regionals Finals that also took place on Sunday. This
was arguably the best matchup of the weekend, as the battle in this game was
physical, intense and fast-paced. It also featured one of the best goaltending
duels of the weekend between Michigan sophomore sensation Alvaro Montoya and Boston College junior Matti Kaltiainen (BOS). Both Michigan and Boston College are
excellent skating teams and this matchup featured lots of terrific end-to-end
action. Boston College made one change to their lineup from Saturday’s game
versus Niagara. Freshman Joe Rooney
was scratched in favor of towering freshman Brian Boyle (LA). Boyle, along with his linemates senior Justin Dziama (NJ) and junior Ned Havern (DAL) provided some
excellent physical and grinding plays that were crucial to Boston College’s
overall success in the game.


But the story of the game was the phenomenal play of
brothers Ben Eaves (PIT) and Patrick Eaves (OTT). The dynamic,
younger Patrick Eaves had a hand in all three Boston College goals, notching a
goal and two assists. The older Ben Eaves notched an assist and the game-winning
goal that could only be described as unbelievable. With the game tied 2-2 at
the end of regulation, everything was on the line for both teams in overtime.
At around the 3:30 mark of overtime, Boston College got the news that they
didn’t want, when Ben Eaves hobbled to the BC bench in what appeared to be a
leg injury. Later it was determined that Eaves suffered a leg cramp. Apparently
refusing to go to the locker room, Eaves laid right behind the player’s bench
as the Eagles trainer worked on his leg. He returned to the ice around the
10-minute mark of overtime and at the 10:08 mark became the hero of the game as
he scored the game-winner to propel Boston College to the Frozen Four
Tournament. His brother Patrick threw the puck at the net to set up the play.
Ben Eaves got a backhanded shot on net that deflected off of Montoya. He then
batted the puck out of the air and in behind Montoya for the score. As much as
there was elation for Boston College, there was bitter disappointment for
Michigan. Sadly, someone had to lose this game that was fought so valiantly by
both teams.


Senior defenseman Andy
and explosive freshman Mike
tallied the goals for Michigan. Montoya was outstanding in the losing
cause as he stopped 42 of Boston College’s 45 shots that included an excellent
point blank glove save on Patrick Eaves. Kaltiainen, who was equally
outstanding but not quite as busy, stopped 15 of Michigan’s 17 shots for the
win that included a highlight reel glove-save on Michigan freshman phenom T. J. Hensick.