Defensive dance party
Tourney scoreboard emboldens pool-wide parity
Durham, N.H.- If nothing else, the Providence College Friars have this trivial triumph all to themselves from this year’s Hockey East playoffs: they won the most lopsided of the five tournament games, which was also the lone shutout.
Most literally beyond their 3-0 preliminary knockoff of Connecticut at Schneider Arena last Saturday, the remainder of the tournament saw nobody scamper off with a three-plus goal differential, nor did anybody score anything beyond the 1-to-3 goal range in an individual twig-lock.
Quick recap: Boston University bumps Northeastern, 2-1, in the latter quarterfinal. The Friars are docked, 3-1, at the hands of tournament host New Hampshire in Saturday’s first semifinal. Boston College subsequently fetters BU, 3-2, in an enticing appetizer to the possibility of a storied women’s Green Line Rivalry.
And yesterday, UNH again lunged out to a snappy 2-0 edge, but had to subsist entirely on Lindsay Minton’s bold backstopping and gritty defensive puck graters to ultimately ward off the Eagles, 2-1, for the title.
In five of the six preceding seasons –under the old four-team, three-game format- there was at least one case of a final three-goal gap or greater and usually more than one shutout to go around.
Maroon and Gold melee ahead
As head coach Katie King comfortably expected even in the aftermath of yesterday’s defeat, BC (22-8-5) retained its NCAA viability. In last night’s evening hours, the breakneck regional schedule was discharged for public viewing, with the #7 Eagles assigned to visit #2 Minnesota at Minneapolis’ Ridder Arena this Saturday (5:00 p.m. EST face-off).
By implicit virtue of sealing their conference crown and a crack at geographic checks and balances, the Wildcats have hosting rights in a 4-5 tangle with Minnesota-Duluth here at the Whittemore Center (1:00 p.m. face-off Saturday). Though at least one stride ahead of UNH in the polls for the duration of the season, the defending national champion Bulldogs sat out the WCHA title tilt when they lost Saturday’s semifinal to Wisconsin, 3-1.
The regal Badgers –despite bowing to the Gophers yesterday- shall host #8 Dartmouth while the 3-versus-6 card has St. Lawrence venturing to the College Hockey America champion Mercyhurst.
Victorious New Hampshire skipper Brian McCloskey gave partial credit to the presence of NESN for slowing the pace of the game, thus salvaging a little energy in his limited capacity tanks.
“TV probably helped us,” he said. “I’ve never been a fan for the last several years because we’ve had a lot of depth, but today I was very pleased that we had timeouts three or four timeouts a period.”
First and final act
The Eagles and Wildcats conducted the season’s first and last twig-locks between two fellow Hockey Easterners this season –with the potential to cross paths yet again at Boston’s Agganis Arena in another 11 or 13 days. Their regular season opener here on October 8 culminated in the league’s first meaningful shutout (a 1-0 UNH triumph) and they ultimately ran away with the two bye seeds for postseason play –a privileged they indulged in to the fullest possible extent towards yesterday’s nail-gnawing get-together.
“I really think Katie King’s team will do something (next weekend),” said McCloskey. “They’ll probably have to travel for the NCAAs, but that’s a very good hockey team.
“We’re very similar teams, I would say. I’m not surprised they had an outstanding record.”
Now merely two years removed from finishing her career as an acetylene stick carrier for the Friars, Sonny Watrous took her second shift as a NESN field reporter for yesterday’s telecast (she had previously been up on a virtual call-up from Cox for last year’s men’s championship).
Quick Feeds: For the seventh time in as many possibilities, every All-Tournament slot went exclusively to title game participants…The Wildcats were outclassed at the face-off dot for the second straight day, wresting only 21 out of 51 draws from the Eagles. The preceding day, the Friars had won 33 of 59 draws, making them the majority ruler in that category for the third time in four encounters with New Hampshire this season… Dartmouth, rated #9 in both major national polls this week, nabbed an automatic bid to the NCAA regionals through their 6-1 ECAC championship win over RPI yesterday. Being the lone program beneath the eighth slot to claim a conference title, the Big Green effectively dislodged conference cohabitant Harvard from at-large consideration…Other fast burst bubbles across the nation: Colgate (ECAC), Minnesota State-Mankato (WCHA), Princeton (ECAC), and Wayne State (CHA).
Al Daniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org