Bemidji State scores unlikely upset
Notes: Oswego and St. Norbert could headline clash
A perennial power at the Division II level, and then in the now-defunct College Hockey America conference, Bemidji State has struggled in its first season in the WCHA, but as they prepare for this week’s WCHA Final Five, it’s worth remembering that there’s a first time for everything.
For Alaska-Anchorage, it turns out that there’s also a second.
The Beavers and the Seawolves scored an unlikely pair of upsets in their first round playoff series, and will now head to the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul with an opportunity to win the Broadmoor Trophy as WCHA Champions and move on to the NCAA tournament.
The Beavers finished lower in the conference standings, going 10th, but may have had the more manageable task against third-place Nebraska-Omaha. The Beavers had been dominant against their fellow WCHA newcomers in the regular season, going 3-0-1 against the Mavericks in two regular-season series, outscoring UNO 11-5 in the four games. Bemidji continued its mastery of the Mavericks in Omaha, as the top line of Jordan George, Matt Read and Ian Lowe scored five goals in two games, with Jamie MacQueen contributing the rest of the offense, to lead BSU to wins of 4-2 and 3-2.
The Seawolves, meanwhile, wound up on the receiving end of a 5-1 thrashing in their first trip to Mariucci Arena this season, but recovered the next night for a 1-0 shutout on the strength of 30 saves by Chris Kamal. After backstopping UAA to a 4-3 win on Friday, Kamal found his shutout form again on Saturday night, making 24 saves to back up goals by Mickey Spencer and Tommy Grant and end the Gophers’ season. It’s only the second trip to the Final Five in the Seawolves’ program history, and the first since 2004.
That 2004 trip saw the Seawolves beat Colorado College in the preliminary game, which this year’s UAA team hopes is a good omen. The Seawolves will face the No. 13 Tigers on Thursday night in the second of two quarterfinal games, with the winner taking on No. 1 North Dakota. The Beavers, meanwhile, take on No. 11 Minnesota Duluth, with the winner facing No. 5 Denver.
Need to Know
• They’ve battled it out all season atop the USCHO.com Division III Poll, and now, with the tickets punched to Ridder Arena in Minneapolis for the NCAA Division III Men’s Hockey Championship, Oswego and St. Norbert may well have their chance to decide the question on the ice. The Lakers and the Green Knights both won their quarterfinal games on Saturday, and while fellow quarterfinal winners Norwich and Adrian undoubtedly have their own thoughts on who will stand alone as NCAA Division III Champions when all is said and done on March 26, Oswego and St. Norbert are coming off the most impressive offensive and defensive performances of the quarterfinal round. The Lakers got two goals apiece from Jon Whitelaw and David Titanic en route to a 7-5 win over Bowdoin, while the Green Knights’ B.J. O’Brien stopped all 21 shots he faced, earning his fourth shutout of the season in a 4-0 win over Hamline.
• Two teams in Hockey East will have new head coaches when the 2011-2012 season begins in the fall, as Providence head coach Tim Army and UMass-Lowell head coach Blaise MacDonald have resigned. MacDonald, who came to Lowell from Niagara in 2001, guided the River Hawks to three 20-win seasons in 10 years, finishing with a record of 150-178-42 at the school (241-236-59 overall). Army, a Providence alum who returned to his alma mater in 2005 after Paul Pooley took a job under Jeff Jackson at Notre Dame, amassed a record of 66-116-28 in six seasons.
• Oswego and St. Norbert may be the top dogs in the polls, but the other two teams in the NCAA Division III Championship enter the semifinal round on the longest unbeaten streaks in the nation. Adrian’s 5-3 win over Elmira at Arrington Ice Arena was the Bulldogs’ 16th win in 17 games (16-0-1), while Norwich improved to 12-0-2 in its last 14 games with a 3-2 overtime victory at Plattsburgh. The Cadets will look to take down St. Norbert on March 25, while the Bulldogs set their sights on Oswego St.
• Merrimack’s Ryan Flanagan and Boston College’s Jimmy Hayes were named the Athletic Republic Co-Players of the Week by Hockey East after leading the No. 7 Warriors and the No. 2 Eagles to wins in Hockey East quarterfinal series. Flanagan scored two goals and added four assists in Merrimack’s two game sweep of Maine, while Hayes scored four of BC’s eight goals, including a hat trick on Saturday night, in the Eagles’ two-game sweep of UMass.
• He’s third on his team in scoring, but Oswego forward Luke Moodie stands alone as the top scorer so far in the NCAA Division III Championship tournament. With a goal and two assists in the Lakers’ win over Bowdoin, Moodie leads the Division III tournament in points per game, despite the fact that other participants in the tournament have played two games.
• Colgate goaltender Eric Mihalik was named the MLX Skates Goaltender of the Week by ECAC Hockey for his performance in the Raiders’ upset of conference regular-season champion Union. Mihalik made 30 saves twice in three games, including 34 in an overtime in on Sunday to put Colgate in the conference semifinals, becoming the first rookie goalie in Colgate history to win two playoff series in the same year.
• While he couldn’t backstop UMass to an upset of Boston College in the Hockey East quarterfinals, Minutemen goaltender Paul Dainton will leave Amherst having made his mark in UMass hockey history. Dainton will graduate with the UMass records for saves (3,226) and minutes played (7,043), with only current Los Angeles Kings goalie Jon Quick having a better save percentage or goals-against average.