College Hockey:
Championship Notebook

Local Women Make Good

Wisconsin featured three key players from New England, each playing in front of family and friends in Boston’s Agganis Arena. All three had an outstanding pair of games.

Meghan Duggan, from Danvers, Mass., finished the weekend with one goal and four assists, Hanover, New Hampshire’s Hilary Knight had three goals and three assists, and captain Erika Lawler, from Fitchburg, Mass., had seven points on two goals and five assists.

Lawler tried to downplay the significance. “It doesn’t matter where you are playing or who you are playing in front of. If you get caught up in that, it is likely you won’t have much success. We could have been playing in Alabama.”

But when asked how many people from Fitchburg made the trek down the Mass. Pike to see the games, Lawler just beamed a smile, and Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson answered for her: “Who wasn’t here from Fitchburg?”

Johnson had nothing but positives to say about Lawler.

“When I get asked how to be a good hockey player, I just say, ‘Look at Erika.’ She creates energy for the team. She has a passion for playing, and has fun doing it. If you had a lockerroom full of players like her, it would make my job very easy.”

Agganis Arena Home Away From Home

Wisconsin had no problems getting used to Agganis Arena, which normally plays host to the Boston University men’s hockey team, scoring ten goals and only allowing one in the two games.

Both the Terrier men and the Badger women have been terrific in this season, both spending significant time ranked number one in the country in the respective USCHO.com Poll, and sometimes embarrassing opponents. Even the color schemes are similar: scarlet and white for BU, cardinal and white for Wisconsin.

“The main difference is the size of the ice sheet,” said Mark Johnson. “This is not quite an Oympic-sized ice sheet, which is what we are used to. But what you have here is a wonderful facility, from the weight rooms to the video facilities. I’ve been to the Frozen Four in each of the last four seasons, and it gets better and better each year.”

Another benefit to playing in Agganis: the BU hockey team’s association with alum and 1980 Olympic hero Mike Eruzione. Johnson and Eruzione were teammates on the gold medal-winning 1980 ice hockey team, and were reunited this weekend.

“I even got Eruzione to pay for a meal last night,” Johnson joked.

Specialty Teams Not So Special

The biggest problem on the weekend for Mercyhurst appeared to be specialty teams.

All four of Minnesota’s goals against Mercyhurst came with a Laker in the penalty box, and Wisconsin scored both a power play as well as a shorthanded goal in the crucial second period.

In both Mercyhurst’s semifinal and championship games, the Lakers seemed to carry the play in the first period, which could be explained by neither opponent knowing too much about the skaters from Erie.

“I consider Mercyhurst a very deserving opponent,” said Johnson. “Maybe people haven’t seen them play, but coaches who have coached against them know they are well-prepared, talented team.”

The difference between the two games was that on Friday, the Lakers managed to capitalize on the early pressure, carrying a 3-1 lead into the first intermission. On Sunday, the score was 0-0 after the first period, and the Badgers scored three times in the second.

“We thought we could exploit their defense, and we did in the first period,” said Mercyhurst head coach Michael Sisti. “But giving up the goals in bunches took the wind out of us.”

“Vetter is a great goaltender, and I think you’ve got to get on her early,” agreed Mercyhurst’s Meghan Agosta. “We had some chances that we didn’t quite bury. I thought she kept her team in it during some key chances where we could have gotten one or two. She was right there to stop us.”

Good Vetter Best

It was only fitting that the championship game be decided as a shutout for Wisconsin, as goalie Jessie Vetter holds the NCAA record for most shutouts in a season as well as in a career. With the 2009 5-0 title game, Vetter finishes her career with 39 shutouts, 14 of them this year.

“That’s the way to go out,” she said, of the title win. “No bad feelings, no tears. Just a win and celebration.”

Vetter had quite a weekend, as she won her third National Championship, being named the Most Outstanding Player in the process. And on Saturday she won the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award for the year’s best women’s ice hockey player. She becomes the first player to win the Kazmaier, MOP, and National Championship in the same year.

“I like Boston,” Vetter quipped.

In her four years, Vetter played in 12 postseason games, compiling a record of 11-1, and allowing just 10 goals in that time. In her three title seasons of 2006, 2007, and 2009, she allowed just 3 goals total in the nine NCAA playoff games.

All-Tournament Team

Meghan Agosta, Junior Forward, Mercyhurst
Erika Lawler, Senior Forward, Wisconsin
Hilary Knight, Sophomore Forward, Wisconsin
Alycia Matthews, Senior Defender, Wisconsin
Malee Windmeier, Sophomore Defender, Wisconsin
Jessie Vetter, Senior Goaltender, Wisconsin

Most Outstanding Player: Vetter

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College Hockey:
Championship Notebook

All-Tournament Team Returns

For the first time since 1987 the Division III championships announced an all-tournament team. Neumann freshman goaltender Ross MacKinnon was named most outstanding player and was joined on the team by three of his teammates. The all-tournament team was:

F, Jesse Cole, sr., Neumann
F, Matt Ward, jr., Neumann
F, Patrick Dynan, jr., Gustavus Adolphus
D, Charles Paterson, jr., Neumann
D, Andrew Brennan, sr., Hobart
G, Ross MacKinnon, fr., Neumann

Most outstanding player: MacKinnon

MacKinnon was no doubt the star of the weekend. The freshman netminder turned back 60 of 61 shots in Neumann’s two games. It marked the second year in a row a goaltender has turned in a stellar championships performance, as between MacKinnon and St. Norbert’s Kyle Jones a year ago, the winning goalies have allowed a single goal over that span.

MacKinnon, despite being a freshman on a senior-heavy team, quickly earned the respect and trust of his teammates this season.

“He’s a freshman goalie but he’s shown up for us all year,” said Knights’ forward Jesse Cole. “A lot of it has to do with him because we have so much confidence in him. He deserves everything he gets out of this and we’re very proud of him.”

hockey 2009 03 21al3321A 300 Championship Notebook

Tournament Most Oustanding Player Ross MacKinnon with championship trophy (photo: Angelo Lisuzzo.)

Speaking to his performance in the championship game, in which he stopped 21 of 22 shots, MacKinnon said:

“I don’t know if it was not getting much sleep last night or not getting a good warmup today, it just took me a little bit to get into the game…but then I settled into a groove and felt pretty good after that.”

When asked if sleep was going to be an issue tonight, MacKinnon’s light-hearted reply was a simple one:


In another jovial moment, MacKinnon even took a shot at himself for allowing the one goal he did on the weekend–a shot from behind the goal that banked in off his chest.

“It didn’t really get by me, I put it in the net by myself,” he joked.

First Time’s the Charm

In only his first season at the helm, Neumann’s championship makes Knights’ head coach Dominick Dawes only the second person to ever win a Division III title as both a player and a head coach. It was only six years ago he won it as a player as he was a junior at Norwich when the Cadets won the 2003 national championship.

The only person to previously have accomplished this feat is current St. Norbert head coach Tim Coghlin. Coghlin was a senior defenseman and captained University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to its first national title in 1989, and scored the title as coach with St. Norbert just last year.

“It’s a great accomplishment and it feels good,” he said of the unique claim to fame.

“But I have to thank [Neumann] for giving me the opportunity to lead these guys. I also have to thank [Norwich head coach Mike] McShane for dragging me to Norwich and having those teams he had back there.”

When it comes to winning his title in his first season, Dawes was quick to pass the credit down to those who came before him and built the Knights into a national power in less than a decade.

“This is tremendous and it’s obviously a great accomplishment,” explained Dawes. “But I was pretty fortunate to step into this group. No other [coach] has been fortunate enough to step into a group like this that had this much ability.”

“These guys had the ability when I got here. It was just a matter of coming together and doing it,” he added.

With a national championship in his pocket less than eight months into his head coaching career, Dawes has certainly set the bar high for himself and the Neumann program. Keeping the bar at the lofty heights it now sits at will be the next challenge for Dawes–especially considering the Knights will lose 14 players to graduation this spring.

“From here it’s going to be finding guys to replace this group,” he said regarding the near future. “It’s going to take some work because there are some pretty good players in this group, but we have to go find some players, replace these guys, and get back here.

“These seniors are the guys who made us one of the best teams in the nation over the past couple seasons.”

For now, at least, the “one of the” can be dropped from his comment as the Dawes’ led Knights will forever be in the books as the best team of the 2009 season.

Rough Weekend for Lopes

As has been documented, Gustavus Adolphus senior netminder Matthew Lopes faced a long and arduous journey before landing at Gustavus Adolphus. Lopes ended up closing out his career with a rather painful weekend, and it had nothing to do with how he played or the fact the Gusties’ fantastic playoff run ended just a bit short of the ultimate goal.

After Stout’s opening goal in yesterday’s semifinal, Lopes hit the ice and remained there for several minutes, He eventually got up and finished the second period, but was replaced for the third and did not return to the Gusties’ bench.

“Last night I hyperextended my back and this morning it felt fine so I gave it a go.”

Despite feeling better this morning, Lopes was not the beneficiary of much luck as early in the title game he was run over by an attacking Neumann forward. He bounced up a bit quicker than he did yesterday and remained in the game. Despite the tough loss, Lopes managed to get a laugh out of the press room when asked about how his weekend went in a physical sense.

“Tonight I did get plowed into but fortunately it was just my head and not my back,” he joked.

MIAC Inferiority???

The MIAC is often considered to be a much weaker league than its Western sister-conference, the NCHA. There is some merit it to this as the NCHA has traditionally fared quite well in its interlocking schedule with the MIAC. In fact, the NCHA was 46-17-2 overall against the MIAC this season.

Where the NCHA hasn’t fared nearly as well as o late against the MIAC, however, is in the NCAA Tournament. A MIAC team has defeated a NCHA team in the tournament four of the past five years. St Thomas beat St. Norbert in 2005, Bethel beat River Falls in 2007, St. Thomas beat Stout last year, and Gustavus downed the top two NCHA teams, Superior and Stout, to reach this year’s final.

The Gusties are yet another example of what a waste of time it is to bicker about whether any conference is better than any other.

What the 19-11 Gusties do validate, however, is that there is currently more parity in Division III than ever before. After all, they were the third place MIAC team this season and were a beyond worthy national title game participant. It also goes to show that come NCAA tournament time, there are reasons the teams that are still playing are where they are, and anyone who thinks there isn’t an excellent team in the field is a fool.

Fans, Fans, Everywhere Fans

One entertaining aspect of a national championship event is that it brings fans from all over the country together. As a result, one will spot people sporting a variety of apparel representing the school they support.

This weekend in Lake Placid was no exception as a host of hockey-sponsoring institutions were represented by a wide array of fan apparel.

At last count, garbs toting the prominence of Neumann, Gustavus Adolphus, Hobart, Stout, Plattsburgh, Oswego, Stonehill, Norwich, Middlebury, Potsdam, Cortland, Stevens Point, River Falls, Utica, Michigan, Cornell, Maine, Alaska-Fairbanks, Wisconsin, Clarkson, Colgate, Boston College, St. Lawrence, Vermont and Denver were spotted.

With that diverse of a group of hockey fans all in one place at one time–how can one not love it?
Oh, and sorry guys, I tried quite hard but was unable to locate any RIT gear.

Last and Certainly Least

As some may recall, SUNYAC columnist and pretzel “aficionado” Russell Jaslow failed to try a hot pretzel at last years championships in Lake Placid. It was not a mistake he would make twice, as he finally scored a Lake Placid pretzel during an intermission of the championship game.

“It’s an excellent pretzel,” he judged. “It challenges Brockport’s but it isn’t quite that good. It’s certainly a pretzel worthy of a championship event, though.”

And just in case inquiring minds want to know, there was no cheese with this pretzel.

“If it’s good enough to eat, it doesn’t need cheese,” Jaslow insisted.

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Please also keep “woofing,” taunting, and otherwise unsportsmanlike behavior to a minimum. Your posts will more than likely be deleted, and worse yet, you reflect badly on yourself, your favorite team and your conference.

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