If I were able to watch any of the college hockey this weekend, I would have likely needed a cigarette when all was said and done. Even though there was only one nationally televised game (UMass-BC on NBC Sports Network), it was thrilling just to follow the box scores to see some of the unexpected results last weekend brought.
With the conference playoffs in full swing, the games get more intense. From the physicality to the speed, everything gets ramped up a notch. This past weekend was no exception, if the 13 games that ended in overtime were any indication.
There was everything you come to expect from playoff hockey at any level: drama, controversy and fantastic individual performances.
Coming up after the jump, a look at some of the highlights from last weekend, a look ahead to the neutral-site games coming this weekend and the latest news and notes from around college hockey.
Conference Playoff Highlights
The biggest upset of the week came by way of the 11th seeded Bowling Green Falcons knocking off CCHA regular season champion Ferris State in three games, with both wins coming in overtime. The Falcons have been on a bit of a roll of late, beginning with a win at Michigan to help Ferris lock up the regular-season title. The Falcons followed that up by taking out sixth-seeded Northern Michigan in three games in the CCHA playoffs first round, delivering a probable fatal blow to the Wildcats’ national tourney hopes.
The star of the playoffs for BGSU is Dan DeSalvo. Coming into the CCHA tournament, DeSalvo, a freshman from Rolling Meadows, Ill., had four goals all season. During the Falcons’ run in the tournament, DeSalvo has scored a stunning 10 goals, including two third-period goals to help tie Game 3 against Ferris State, but why stop there? DeSalvo also tallied the OT winner, his now team-leading 14th goal, to send Bowling Green to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA semis and a date with the Michigan Wolverines Friday at 8:05 p.m. ET.
It’s an incredible accomplishment for the Falcons who won five games all year in the conference. Apparently they saved their best for the postseason.
Elsewhere in the CCHA…
Miami knocked off Michigan State for a trip to JLA. Western Michigan took down Lake Superior State to punch its ticket, and Michigan eliminated Notre Dame.
UMass gave BC a bit of a scare in its series, but a controversial non-icing call led to BC’s GWG in Game 2 and allowed the heavily favored Eagles to pull off the sweep.
The hybrid icing rule, which has a good chance of being added to the NHL next year, has worked well in the NCAA, but UMass coach Toot Cahoon didn’t hold back in his post-game comments (which I edited for space):
“We should still be playing out there right now. I don’t think there is any question in the world. If you get a chance to look at that third goal, you won’t believe what you’d see. End of story.
“It was disgraceful. Icing… There’s no one in this league or any other league that’s going to tell me otherwise. And it just ended our season, absolutely disgraceful.”
You hate to see games end on questionable calls, and this is a reason I am not a huge fan of hybrid icing. It’s safer than touch and allows for more competition than automatic icing, but it has it’s flaws and this is a big one right here.
Elsewhere in Hockey East…
Two of the surprise teams in all of college hockey this year were Merrimack and UMass-Lowell. Merrimack was even the No. 1 team in the country for a few weeks this season. Both were bounced out of the playoffs.
Merrimack lost in three games to Maine and it looks like that will end their season. Despite losing to Providence, Lowell is still alive, currently sitting ninth in the Pairwise.
Either way, these are disappointing losses for both squads. Lowell had the No. 2 seed in Hockey East after its surprising regular-season success. Getting bounced out of your conference tourney by a sub-500 team isn’t the way you want to start your postseason. Merrimack’s hot start cooled and the Warriors had been average ever since. Their loss wasn’t as surprising as Lowell’s, as Merrimack was the lower-seeded team in their series, but it’s just another example of how unpredictable this season has been. A former national No. 1 not making the NCAA tournament is fairly rare.
Meanwhile, BU avoided a scare against New Hampshire, winning in three games. Both the first and third games required an additional OT period to decide a winner, with UNH taking Game 1 and BU claiming victory in the decisive Game 3. With all the self-inflicted adversity BU has faced this year, it’s been pretty incredible to see them continue to claw their way through. Lesser teams would probably have shriveled by now.
So at TD Garden in Boston, it will be Maine vs. BU and Providence vs. BC. All three games from Boston will be televised live on NBC Sports Network, so it will be a big stage for Hockey East to showcase itself to a wider audience than normal. Should make for some great television.
Harvard downed Yale in three games, as the Crimson’s big bounce-back year continues. After losing Game 1, 2-1, Harvard was staring elimination in the face after falling behind, 2-0, early in Game 2. The Crimson came back and held a late-period lead, but Antoine Laganiere scored a goal with the extra attacker out to tie the game for Yale. Dan Ford won it for Yale halfway through the second overtime to keep Harvard alive.
In Game 3, the Crimson blew the doors off the Bulldogs, winning 8-2.
The other key match-up was between Quinnipiac and Colgate. The intrigue was born mostly out of Austin Smith looking to pad his Hobey candidacy, which he probably did.
Colgate needed three games, but it ousted the Bobcats. Smith posted two more goals to run his season total up to 36. He’s now just two goals away from matching Ryan Potulny’s decade-best 38. Scoring this many goals in any conference, especially in a year with such parity (ack) across college hockey is a huge accomplishment.
Now Smith will get a chance to keep his big season going against Union. That matchup will feature the nation’s top scorer against one of the best goalies in the country in Union’s Troy Grosenick. Should be a lot of fun to watch.
Harvard will meet fellow Ivy Leaguer Cornell in the ECAC’s other semifinal match-up
It wasn’t necessarily a big upset, but upstart Michigan Tech Huskies swept a much more skilled Colorado College team right out of their own building. Under the guidance of new head coach Mel Pearson, Tech has really turned a corner after years of sitting in the WCHA basement.
Beating a CC team that included two of the nation’s best players in Jaden and Rylan Schwartz is no easy thing. Tech has just one drafted player on its roster (Blake Pietila), but grinded its way to victory and a spot in the Final Five (which now represents the five games played, as opposed to five teams the event used to include donchaknow) at the Xcel in St. Paul.
St. Cloud State got past Nebraska-Omaha for a trip to the X, while North Dakota easily dispatched Bemidji State. Minnesota-Duluth had a pretty tough series, but got past Minnesota State. Meanwhile, Wisconsin gave Denver all it could handle, forcing three games, but it was the Pioneers who came out on top in overtime.
St. Cloud will meet North Dakota, while DU will take on Michigan Tech in the play-in games, with Minnesota Duluth and Minnesota waiting in the wings.
The four teams from AHA competing at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y., for the at-large berth in the NCAA tournament will be Air Force, Mercyhurst, RIT and Niagara. It’s always interesting to see who comes out of this conference, as they can sometimes provide a few fireworks, a la RIT getting into the Frozen Four in 2010.
There have been a few pro-signings already and there are sure to be many more to come as more teams’ season ends.
It was no surprise to see that CC Tiger Jaden Schwartz signed his entry-level deal with St. Louis after getting bounced by Michigan Tech. Schwartz has joined the Blues for practice and it looks like he’ll be given a chance to stay with one of the hottest teams in the NHL for the remainder of the regular season.
The Blues don’t have anyone like Schwartz on the current roster. He was one of the most skilled players in college hockey over the last two season and he was undoubtedly ready to move on.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers get a heckuva free agent pick-up in Ohio State goaltender Cal Heeter. The Buckeye netminder has been one of the best in college hockey over the last two years and he has that size the NHL covets for the goaltender position. His contract doesn’t kick in until 2012-13. With some quality time in the AHL, Heeter could turn out to be a real find for Philly.
College Hockey, Inc., has a running list of the pro-signings to keep you up-to-date.
As more teams get bounced, or learn their NCAA Tournament fate, expect these numbers to pick up. There are quite a few very intriguing free agents and a few potential early departures to keep a close eye on. We’ll have a lot more on that at USofH in the coming weeks.
Chris Kreider is an interesting prospect. As a first-round pick of the New York Rangers, he’s been asked at the end of each college season (he’s now a Junior) to sign. Each time he has declined, but many believe Kreider is as good as gone as soon as BC’s season conclude. Glen Sather wants to get him in the lineup immediately. Coming off his best college season yet, Kreider is ready, but he’s still playing his decision close to the vest according to the Wall Street Journal.
This is a really fantastic story from Matt Wellens of The Mining Journal in Marquette, Mich., about Northern Michigan senior captain Justin Florek. While the Boston Bruins draft choice dreams of an NHL career, he hopes to pursue teaching post-hockey. There is a slim chance the Wildcats make the tournament, so Florek won’t sign until that’s decided.. He has the ability to make it to the NHL, but it’s always refreshing to hear about a player who has vision past hockey. The Bruins have to be happy to have them in their pipeline.
If you want to work out some scenarios for who will get into the NCAA Tournament, here are a few options for you to
waste your entire day have some fun with:
Next week, we’ll recap the conference playoffs, look ahead to the NCAA Tournament and catch you up on more NHL signings. So come on back around this time next week.