I’m spent. I hope the Dogs have a little more energy left than I do. Tonight in the NCAA hockey tourney the UMD Bulldogs battled…scratched…clawed…absolutely escaped…and surprised the heck outta me to beat Princeton, 5-4 in OT. This was a game UMD should have been in the driver’s seat. They seemed to be for the majority of the first period, taking an early lead on a goal from F Andrew Carroll. But Princeton tied it late in the 1st, then took the lead in the 2nd, then added another to go up 3-1. UMD D Brady Lamb got a shot off that eluded Princeton G Zane Kalemba to give UMD some life. Princeton controlled the 2nd period, but a penalty with 3 seconds left gave even more hope to UMD faithful starting the 3rd.
But as was the story for most of the night, UMD’s powerplay mounted little chances, and later in the period, on another PP, UMD gave up what appeared to be the dagger, a shorthanded goal for Princeton thanks to lackluster lunges at the puck trying to get it off the Tiger’s stick. Down 4-2, UMD pulled G Alex Stalock with about 2 minutes to play. A penalty call on Princeton with roughly a minute and it was “So you’re telling me there’s a chance…”
Then it got nuts. UMD scored on the PP with 39 seconds to go. Still, I’m thinkin’ it woulda been nice to get that goal about 5 minutes ago. UMD won the faceoff and pushed to the net, but a questionable (IMHO) goaltender interference call moved the faceoff out of the zone with 12 seconds to go. Once again UMD won the faceoff, something they did consistently all night long, and got the puck on goal. Zane Kalemba played the puck off for a defender, but the Dogs were coming hard, and they got the puck out front on of the net, where Bulldog D Evan Oberg threw a desperation wrister at the goal.
<<Visualize My Reaction>>Holy crap…it went in! Check the clock! 0.8 left on the clock! It’s a good goal!!! Jump up and down and attempt to be quiet so you don’t wake the family!!! Too late, dog barking, baby crying, wife asking what’s going on!!<<End Visualization>>
Whew! So now we go to an improbable OT, where you worry that the momentum will not carry over because you’ve spent too much emotion. Both teams had some chances, and I let out some gasps on both sides of the ice. With about 6 minutes to play the Tigers were called for tripping, and UMD had another PP opportunity. They were not good on the PP all night, but only a few seconds after the ensuing faceoff UMD F Mike Connolley showed some nifty skate work to catch a beauty centering pass from F Justin Fontaine and had a yawning net to stuff the puck into, and he did just that. UMD moves on to the West region championship game. Win and go to the Frozen Four! The pro UMD crowd was awesome all night, continually getting behind the Dogs. Those that came down to Minneapolis from Duluth now get to go out and party and look forward to seeing UMD play another day.
UMD had to scratch and claw to get a win tonight and defend their higher seed. In the other games Friday, the high seeds were upset. In the East regional, #4 Air Force beat #1 Michigan 2-1 and #3 Vermont beat #2 Yale. In the other West regional game, #4 Miami Ohio took care of Denver 4-2. So I got one game out of the four right in my bracket…and I barely got that one.
That sets up Air Force v. Vermont and Minnesota Duluth v. Miami Ohio to go to the Frozen Four. Honestly, I got nothin’ on AF v. Vermont. As for UMD v. Miami, the Dogs have got to be super tired – it is good that the game is an 8:00 CST start. Good opportunity to rest. They have to be careful not to take Miami lightly because they are the #4 seed. Miami also probably learned alot from Princeton’s gameplan to take the athletic Alex Stalock out of UMD’s gameplan. The Dogs will have to stay intense and bury their opportunities better than they did tonight. And, sticking to my bracket, and my loyalties, I think they will do just that.