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Saturday of the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey tournament brought more of the same that we saw on Friday: incredible surprises and great hockey. After the results of Saturday’s games, we know that the winner of the national championship will be a first time national champion, as all the teams with past championships have been eliminated. It will be the first time since 1958 that the Frozen Four will feature four teams with a previous championship. We also know that the Frozen Four will feature two teams from the ECAC for the first time since 1983, which is a shocker in and of itself, as the ECAC is normally considered the second weakest of the five college hockey conferences in Division I. The amount of parody in Division I college hockey has shown itself again this year, which is why it is so much fun to watch.
Just as on Friday, on Saturday I correctly predicted half of the games, and got half wrong. I predicted that Yale’s Cinderella run would end against North Dakota, but the Bulldogs kept it close all game long and scored four goals in the final eight minutes to pull off the major upset and advance to their first Frozen Four since 1952. In the Northeast regional final I predicted a really tightly contested low scoring game that would be won by the Wildcats of New Hampshire, but UNH did not give it 100% and saw their season come to an end with a 2-0 loss at the hands of conference foe UMass-Lowell. When making my predictions yesterday, I was not aware of the fact that the Wildcats would be without their top two centers, Kevin Goumas and Grayson Downing, in the game as both went down with injuries the night before against Denver. With the win, the River Hawks advance to their first ever Frozen Four.
In Saturday’s first semifinal game, I predicted that Notre Dame would be unable to shut down St. Cloud State’s lethal offense, and sure enough, the Huskies blew out the Irish, winning 5-1. An interesting note on that game was that the Irish were able to keep Hobey Baker finalist Drew LeBlanc off the board, but couldn’t stop freshman center Joey Benik, who scored 2 goals and an assist in the upset win. I predicted the experienced Miami (Ohio) Redhawks would have no problem against Minnesota State, and the Redhawks advanced with an easy 4-0 win, with Hobey Baker finalist Austin Czarnik contributing two assists for Miami.
In the East Regional, I predicted an easy win for Quinnipiac against the tournament’s biggest surprise in Canisius, and they got the win, but it was far from easy. Canisius took a shocking 3-1 lead four minutes into the third that opened eyes across the college hockey world, but the Bobcats proved why they are the number one overall seed in the tournament with three goals in under seven minutes to pull off the 4-3 win. In the last game of the night, Union scored five unanswered goals against Boston College to open up the game, and cruised to a 5-1 win. I predicted a BC victory and even tabbed them as my favorite to win the whole thing, but said that Union could end up being a sleeper team in the tournament, and especially after seeing the game last night, I really think they could do incredible things moving forward in this tournament. With two games remaining this weekend, I am at 5-5 in my predictions. Here are my last two for the weekend:
MIDWEST REGIONAL FINAL, Toledo, Ohio
(4) St. Cloud State vs. (2) Miami (Ohio), 4PM
This matchup has a lot of potential to be a very good one. This game will come down to whether or not St. Cloud State’s second ranked offense can solve Miami’s second ranked defense. Miami’s offense, ranked only 38th out of 59 Division I teams, will really have to rely on Austin Czarnik again today and I don’t think the Redhawks will be able to muster enough offense. I went with St. Cloud State in the upset yesterday, and I think they will do it again today. Don’t expect a lot of goals, but expect to see St. Cloud State advance to the Frozen Four in its second consecutive upset.
EAST REGIONAL FINAL, Providence, Rhode Island
(3) Union vs. (1) Quinnipiac, 6:30PM
I can’t say enough about how strong Union is and how well they played last night against the team that, in my view, was the best team in the tournament. A battle of ECAC foes, I think this has the potential to be a great hockey game. Quinnipiac won both matchups between the two squads in the regular season, but I’m having a hard time going against Union after their performance last night. Union will advance to the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh.
That’s it for the weekend. One of the most entertaining tournaments I can remember, and certainly one that has seen a lot of excitement. With Yale and UMass-Lowell already through, I’m predicting they will be joined by the Huskies of St. Cloud State, and the Dutchmen of Union College. I’ll be back at it tomorrow to summarize these games, and then again in two weeks as I predict the Frozen Four. Look for two very entertaining hockey games today and remember to expect the unexpected.