Hockey tourney stands out

Posted March 31, 2009, at 10:36 p.m.

While most eyes were focused on March Madness, college hockey had its own version which clearly overshadowed its basketball rival.

How about having a No. 16 seed from a four-team conference that is disbanding after this season knock off the nation’s No. 2-ranked team (Notre Dame) and Cornell by a combined score of 9-2.

Bemidji State (Minn.) from College Hockey America not only earned its first berth in the Frozen Four, its 5-1 triumph over Notre Dame, winner of 10 straight, was its first NCAA Tournament victory in school history.

The Beavers became the first team from CHA or Atlantic Hockey to reach the Frozen Four.

And they will play Miami of Ohio from the CCHA, which is making its first ever appearance in a Frozen Four.

Three of the four number one seeds were eliminated in the first round by the fourth seeds. In addition to Bemidji State’s win over Notre Dame, Air Force from Atlantic Hockey shocked Michigan 2-0 despite being outshot 43-13 and Miami stunned Denver 4-2.

Then there were thrillers.

For the third straight year, Hockey East’s Player of the Year was a goalie and he lost in the first round.

Northeastern’s Brad Thiessen surrendered goals with 3:56 and 18 seconds left as Cornell overcame a 2-0 deficit to oust the Huskies 3-2. BU’s John Curry lost to Michigan 5-1 two years ago and, last season, New Hampshire’s Kevin Regan was beaten by Notre Dame 7-3.

UNH finally won an NCAA Tournament game, snapping a four-game losing streak, by scoring with less than a second left to tie North Dakota and then winning 45 seconds into overtime 6-5.

But Manchester’s Verizon Wireless Arena was cruel to the Wildcats the following night when Boston University, the only top seed going to the Frozen Four, used a terrific performance by freshman goalie Kieran Millan and a fluke power-play goal with 15 seconds left to beat UNH 2-1.

The game-winner came on a centering pass by Jason Lawrence that hit UNH defenseman Kevin Kapstad’s stick, went off goalie Brian Foster’s pad and was knocked into the net by UNH’s Jerry Pollastrone, whose left hand accidentally swept the puck into the net as he dove to break up the play.

For Maine fans, this was poetic justice because it was a Kapstad cheap shot on an unsuspecting Gustav Nyquist that injured the freshman’s neck.

Another NCAA gem was the Air Force-Vermont game in which Vermont defenseman Dan Lawson’s one-timer sailed through the net in the second overtime and play continued. But, after a 12-minute video review, the goal was awarded, stamping the Catamounts’ ticket to Washington D.C. and a date with BU.

This takes Maine fans back to the 1993 Frozen Four when Patrice Tardif’s shot against Michigan went under the net which had lifted up for a split second. However, Tardif was not awarded the goal, which still remains a mystery.

On another hockey topic, Maine coach Tim Whitehead actually did Lem Randall, Glenn Belmore and Keif Orsini a favor by telling them they weren’t in the plans next year.

This way, they can transfer if they wish and, if they go to a Division I school, they will still have two years of eligibility after sitting out a year.

Had they returned and played sparingly or not at all, then transferred after the 2009-2010 season, they would have to sit out a year and would have had just one year of eligibility.

Whitehead will also wisely honor their scholarships if they return and don’t play.

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