If Friday is any indication of how Saturday will go, then the Boston College Eagles should feel a bit more comfortable. It doesn’t really work like that, but BC, playing their regional semifinal at 9pm tonight, would like to think so.
In the first day of 2013 NCAA Tournament action, Hockey East went 2-0 and is now guaranteed to get at least one team into the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh. BC will have to win two games to make it two Hockey East entries.
The very first game on Friday yielded a major upset. The Yale Bulldogs defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers, the #2 overall seed in the tournament, 3-2 in overtime. Yale took a 2-0 lead into the second intermission but Minnesota stormed back to tie the game and send it to an extra period. Unfortunately for the Gophs, it lasted only nine seconds: Yale’s Jesse Root scored the game winner only a few moments into overtime to eliminate one of the top teams in the country.
Minnesota going one-and-done is a big deal, and not just because they were a 1-seed. This was a dangerous team that had a tremendous regular season, but sometimes all it takes is one clunker and everything you built is wasted. Minny losing opens the door for other teams to emerge, and could make the eventual champion’s path a little bit easier.
In that same region, North Dakota beat Niagara, 2-1. The Team Formerly Known As The Fighting Sioux™ fell behind 1-0 to the Purple Eagles and needed two goals in the third period to win it. Both came within one minute of each other and UND never looked back. They’ve got a realistic likelihood of beating Yale to reach the Frozen Four.
The Manchester region will produce a Hockey East team, and that was assured on Friday night. UMass-Lowell, the conference champions and #3 overall seed in the tournament, obliterated Wisconsin by a 6-1 score. On the bottom half of that bracket, at-large New Hampshire trailed Denver 2-1 after one but then scored four unanswered to claim a 5-2 victory.
The River Hawks of UMass-Lowell have never made a Division I Frozen Four since moving up from D-II thirty years ago; Dick Umile’s New Hampshire Wildcats have not been to the grand finale since 2003.
Friday was not a great day for the WCHA, which saw one team advance (North Dakota) and three earn a trip back home. Hockey East did all it could do by going 2-0, but give it up for the ECHA’s Yale for pulling off the day’s biggest stunner.