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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Up Yours Basketball

Live From Manchester:

Normally I'd wait until I was home with pictures to upload and all that before writing anything, but yesterday's results demand that something be written in the moment.

The match ups that went down yesterday were:

East Regional
(4) Air Force vs. (1) Michigan
(3) Vermont vs. (2) Yale

West Regional
(4) Miami of Ohio vs. (1) Denver University
(3) Princeton vs. (2) Minnesota-Duluth


Air Force 2 - Michigan 0
Vermont 4 - Yale 1
Miami 4 - Denver 2
UMD 5 - Princeton 4 (OT)

Suck on that March Madness basketball.

Air Force was outshot 43-13 by Michigan. Didn't matter. Falcons goaltender Andrew Volkening has been to the tournament a few times before and it showed. Air Force has been close to pulling the huge upset the last two years in the tournament but just fell short losing to Minnesota in overtime two years ago and Miami last year. Third time's the charm, apparently.

Yale was the new black before this tournament got under way. Lots of folks saw the thumping they put on Cornell in the ECAC Championship game and figured they were hot and could roll their way to a couple more wins and make it to D.C. Meanwhile, Vermont stumbled their way into the tournament and in front of a big crowd in Bridgeport, Connecticut they yanked the crown off the local favorites winning convincingly.

Miami was another school whose regular season ended poorly, getting bounced out of the CCHA Tournament in the quarterfinals. Denver earned a top seed by reaching the WCHA Finals but showed signs of weakness getting humbled by Minnesota-Duluth in the final game. Apparently rest means a lot more to these teams at the end of the year because Miami was ahead 3-0 before Denver could muster a power play goal in the second period, only to cough up a late goal to effectively kill any momentum they might've gained.

As for the final game of the night...

Princeton must feel they're in a bad dream. The Tigers took it to the WCHA Tournament Champions for the better part of 59:15 seconds of regulation. They were getting the good bounces, the better opportunities... Hell, they even scored a power play goal and they suck at that.

Unfortunately, playing a solid full 60 minutes is an issue Princeton has had all season long and, amazingly, I've witnessed some of the most glaring failures this team has had this year. Think back to Thanksgiving at the RPI Holiday Tournament. Princeton handled Northeastern quite well in the first game, but against Mercyhurst in the championship... A nightmare.

Mercyhurst jumped out to a 4-0 lead on them in the first period, blowing the doors off of the Tigers but they fought back, and did so impressively scoring four goals in the third, the fourth coming with just two minutes to go in regulation and momentum fully on their side.

That is until 30 seconds later when on a haphazard wraparound attempt after a defensive misplay allowed Lakers winger Scott Pitt to put home the game winner, then later topped off with an empty net goal to seal up the most insane game I've watched all year.

That game could be written off, however, as ECAC Player of the Year Zane Kalemba didn't play. The same can't be said of Princeton's ECAC Semifinals double-overtime failure against Cornell when Princeton jumped ahead 3-1 and had that lead until there were just over two minutes remaining when Cornell pulled to within one and then tied the game with less than 40 seconds to play.

All of these things played out in a nightmare scenario for Princeton again last night when they held a 4-2 lead going into the final minute of play in front of the partisan crowd in Minneapolis.

UMD notches a goal to make things interesting with about 40 seconds to play.

No... Not again...

UMD amps up the pressure in the Princeton zone but get busted for a man in the crease to move the faceoff outside the zone with 12 seconds.

Sigh of relief time - thank goodness.

UMD gets the puck back in deep to the zone on Kalemba...


Kalemba shuttles the puck away in an effort to keep the clock moving...


A UMD player picks it off and is behind the net...

No........ No, no, n-

Players jam to the front and the pass comes out front...


For a lightning-fast put away that gets between Kalemba's pads for the game-tying goal with 0.8 seconds left.

Self explanatory Vader.

Unbelievable. Simply unbelievable. Two goals allowed in 40 seconds. The overtime was academic, although a semi-questionable tripping call against Princeton was thrown in for extra salt in the wound allowing UMD the man advantage they needed to put the game away in overtime.

Simply ridiculous. What a first day of the tournament. Basketball ain't got shit on hockey, plain and simple.

So now today's games involving a spot in D.C. are:

Vermont vs. Air Force
UMD vs. Miami

Ye gods. Only one higher seed survived yesterday and needed to pull the rabbit out of their hats to do it.

Can anything top yesterday? Maybe some Bemidji magic against Notre Dame would do the trick. Maybe a triple-overtime thriller. Maybe today will be pedestrian and top seeds will hold.


Enjoy the games today folks this tournament is already one for the ages.

1 comment:

Brandon said...

I told the WCHA writer at some point this year that 2 surprise teams, two teams that would shock the world will be in the Frozen Four. Looks like I'll be right. :-)