Settling It On The Ice, Part II
When Minnesota was awarded the fourth No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament last Sunday, it didn’t sit well with some, including Cornell supporters who questioned why the 14-loss Gophers should have that spot ahead of the Big Red, who lost just four games all season entering the regionals and won the ECACHL regular-season and tournament championships.
That controversy was a motivator for both teams in Sunday’s regional final.
“I think some of our guys took it a little personally that some people were questioning, should we have been a No. 1 seed, or not a No. 1 seed?” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia.
For Cornell, the No. 2 seed also meant playing the Gophers at their home rink of Mariucci Arena for the West Regional. Had the Big Red been a No. 1 seed instead, the regional assignments would likely have been reshuffled to keep Cornell out east.
“We’d love to have Minnesota in our building,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer . “But you deal with the cards you’re dealt.”
The matchups for the regional semifinals Saturday featured teams with substantial recent histories on the ice. Maine and Minnesota had played twice in the NCAA tournament in the past five season, plus a meeting in the Maverick Stampede to open the 2003-04 season. Meanwhile, Cornell and Ohio State had faced off at least once per season for the past several campaigns, including two meetings during 2003-04, one in the Everblades holiday tournament.
The final was a different matter. Prior to Sunday, Cornell and Minnesota had met just once all-time on the ice, a 5-2 Minnesota win in the semifinals of the Mariucci Classic holiday tournament back on Dec. 31, 1993. Current Gopher coach Lucia also faced Cornell in an 11-0 win on Dec. 27, 1995, as the head coach of Colorado College.
Combined, Minnesota and Cornell have no fewer than 20 NHL draftees on their rosters, with 10 for each team. Four of those have gone in the first two rounds, including Minnesota’s Kris Chucko, Barry Tallackson and Alex Goligoski, and Cornell’s Raymond Sawada.
Still The 1
After its 3-2 victory over Ohio State Saturday and 2-1 loss to Minnesota Sunday, Cornell finished its season leading the nation in a variety of team statistical categories, including scoring defense, scoring margin and penalty-killing efficiency.
Cornell’s team scoring defense of 1.26 goals per game set a post-Depression era record in college hockey, bettering the previous mark of 1.36 goals against per game held by the 2000-01 Michigan State team and Cornell’s own 2002-03 edition.
Dial ‘M’ For, Uh, Zero
David McKee, who led the nation in goals against average, set multiple Cornell and ECACHL records this season for shutouts. McKee now owns the Cornell and ECACHL single-season records for shutouts with 10, as well as the Cornell and ECACHL career records with 15. He is also tied for ECACHL tournament marks for a single season and his career, both with two.
In the West Regional, McKee limited Ohio State and Minnesota each to two goals on a total of 75 shots for a weekend save percentage of .947 — right on the sophomore netminder’s season average, which tied for tops in the nation.
“I think he’s worthy of a Hobey Baker award winner,” said Schafer of McKee, a Hobey Baker finalist. “He’s posted games like that all year long.”
“[WCHA commissioner] Bruce [McLeod] came down and let us know that we can’t let the league down.” — Lucia, with a quip on facing Cornell with the possibility of an all-WCHA Frozen Four in the offing.
“A loss is a loss, and especially this deep in the season … it doesn’t feel very good.” — Cornell’s Mitch Carefoot, on the end of Cornell’s 19-game unbeaten streak, the Big Red’s first loss this season when it scored the first goal.
“Nobody’s wishing anybody good luck.” — Lucia, on the evaporation of the mutual goodwill among WCHA coaches that existed when the NCAA tournament began.
F Garrett Smaagaard, Minnesota
F Evan Kaufmann, Minnesota
F Matt Moulson, Cornell
D Mike Vannelli, Minnesota
D Doug Krantz, Cornell
G Kellen Briggs, Minnesota
Most Outstanding Player: Briggs