Not Their Day
New Hampshire got off to a very fast start, scoring just 21 seconds into the first period. But after that, the team that led the nation in scoring (4.67 goal per game), and backed by a goaltender who set a Hockey East record for save percentage (.938) could do very little right.
It was UNH’s worst defeat of the season; none of the Wildcats’ six previous losses had been by more than three goals. The 7-2 loss tied for worst defeat in New Hampshire’s six trips to the Frozen Four. The Wildcats lost to Wisconsin 5-0 in the 1982 semifinals.
“I personally have not been in been in game like that,” said goaltender Michael Ayers. “Looking back on it and watching the replays is going to make it even worse.”
“We were disappointed in the way we played (today),” said head coach Dick Umile. “It obviously wasn’t one of our better hockey games, but give credit to Maine.”
“They played better game than us, physically, mentally, everything,” added Ayers.
I’m Not Telling
Both coaches were asked on Wednesday which goaltender would start Thursday’s game. Umile told the press that Ayers got the nod, but Maine head coach Tim Whitehead declined to answer. “We always tell our goaltenders the night before,” he said. “We’ve done it that way all season,”
But Maine netminder Mike Morrison told the real story in Thursday’s post-game press conference.
“I found out I was playing on Tuesday,” he said. “I dropped my equipment off at the rink and coach Whitehead told me, which was kind of a surprise because we usually find out the day before a game, in practice.
“It was definitely fun keeping it from all you guys.”
For Once, Some Breathing Room
Maine found itself in a position it’s never been in before in Frozen Four play — ahead by a comfortable margin in the third period.
The 7-2 victory was the largest win by Maine in its seven trips to the Frozen Four. All of Maine’s previous five wins were decided by a single goal. All three previous semifinal victories were in overtime: 4-3 over Michigan in 1993, 4-3 over Michigan in three overtimes in 1995, and 2-1 over Boston College in 1999. Maine’s championship wins were also by a single goal: 5-4 over Lake Superior State in 1993 and 3-2 over UNH in overtime in 1999.
This game was the fifth meeting this season between these Hockey East rivals, with the final record 2-2-1. Their last meeting was a 3-1 UNH win in the Hockey East championship game; the all-time series record is now 45-32-5 in favor of Maine.
The teams last met in NCAA play in the 1999 title game in Anaheim. Maine defeated New Hampshire 3-2 in overtime to claim its second NCAA title.
Wait ‘Til Next Year
Even though this game pitted two Hockey East foes, 2002 marked the first time since 1992 that no Boston team was involved.. Maine has the most experience among this year’s lineup, making three of the last four Frozen Fours. Michigan and UNH have been to two of the past four; it’s the first trip for Minnesota since 1995.
Bigger and Better
This game set the mark for the largest crowd ever for a Frozen Four game, the largest for a college hockey game in the state of Minnesota, and the largest attendance at the Xcel Energy Center: 19,214.
Also, television ratings for the semifinals have increased as ESPN2 has increased its subscriber base. A total of 176,000 households tuned in for the first semifinal last year, up from 57,000 in 1995. Ratings for the second semifinal, usually shown in prime time, were 211,000 last year, while the finals on ESPN pulled in 542,000 last season.
Sean Collins’ unassisted goal for UNH at 0:21 of the first period was the fourth-fastest in Frozen Four history. The record is seven seconds, set by Michigan Tech’s Al Karlander vs. Cornell in a semifinal on March 14, 1969. Cornell, backstopped by Ken Dryden, went on to win 4-3 in overtime … .Both teams scored on their first shot on goal … UNH was 23-1-2 coming into the game when scoring first … Maine has scored the opening goal in just one of its past seven games, but is 5-1-1 in those games … Both teams were undefeated on Thursdays this season; Maine is now 4-0, while UNH falls to 4-1.