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Alaska-Anchorage assistant coach Jindra leaving for ‘other professional opportunities’

Alaska-Anchorage announced Tuesday that assistant coach T.J. Jindra is leaving the Seawolves’ program after four seasons to pursue other professional opportunities in the Lower 48.

Jindra was an integral part of the UAA staff under current head coach Matt Thomas and former head coach Dave Shyiak, variously heading the team’s recruiting and academic functions, in addition to on-ice instruction.

“T.J. has been an invaluable asset to Seawolf Hockey over the last four years,” said Thomas in a statement. “His dedication and hard work bridged a gap during a coaching change and he really helped elevate the program during his time here. Our student-athletes benefited from his knowledge and commitment to their academic and athletic experience. I know we will miss his passion for the program and wish him success in his future endeavors.”

“T.J. Jindra is an outstanding teacher, mentor, coach and role model,” added UAA athletic director Keith Hackett. “He has shown a great commitment to the student-athlete experience. We will miss him and wish him the best in his professional pursuits. Coach Thomas will begin the process of finding the right candidate for this important coaching staff position – someone who has a strong skill set and understands what coaching at the Division I level requires. We need to fill this void with a seasoned, experienced coach to keep moving the program forward.”

Vermont goalie Hoffman signs with Wild, forgoes senior season with Catamounts

141011 19591456 Vermont goalie Hoffman signs with Wild, forgoes senior season with Catamounts

Brody Hoffman used a strong junior season with Vermont to sign a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Wild (photo: Melissa Wade).

The Minnesota Wild has agreed to terms with Vermont goaltender Brody Hoffman to an entry-level contract for the 2015-16 season.

Hoffman will give up his senior season with the Catamounts in signing the contract.

Hoffman went 13-6-2 with a 2.06 GAA, a .922 save percentage and one shutout in 22 games in 2014-15. He posted a record of 34-33-9 with a 2.45 GAA, a .914 save percentage and three shutouts in 78 games during three seasons with the Catamounts.

He went 11-19-6 with a 2.86 GAA, a .904 save percentage and two shutouts in 36 games for Vermont during his freshman season in 2012-13, becoming the first Catamounts goalie to start every regular season game since Tim Thomas (1996-97). He was the only rookie in the nation to start every regular-season contest as well.

Under the radar, Boston University’s Rodrigues keeps making big contributions

694A7347 Under the radar, Boston Universitys Rodrigues keeps making big contributions

Boston University’s Evan Rodrigues has 45 points in his last 23 games (photo: Melissa Wade).

Perhaps it was fitting that there was no on-ice announcement on Saturday night and little fanfare when Boston University senior Evan Rodrigues received the most outstanding player award in the NCAA Northeast Regional against Minnesota-Duluth.

Rodrigues may be the most overlooked star player in college hockey this season.

I00008LCfRa6dljo Under the radar, Boston Universitys Rodrigues keeps making big contributions

2015 Frozen Four

Follow all of USCHO's coverage at Frozen Four Central.

He’s the second-leading scorer in the nation, and no one can touch his numbers since the holiday break: E-Rod has 16 goals and 29 assists for 45 points in his last 23 games.

He set a Hockey East record with six assists in a game in late January. He was the only Hockey East player to notch two hat tricks this season, and he’s always been acknowledged to be a strong two-way player. As a sophomore, he was arguably the best skater on the BU team.

All the same, he was overlooked when the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award were announced, and he didn’t make the Hockey East first team, either.

A big reason why Rodrigues has gone under the radar has been because of linemate Jack Eichel, who won Hockey East’s player of the year and rookie of the year honors, and who appears to be the odds-on favorite to win the Hobey a week from Friday. On top of that, Eichel should be the No. 2 overall pick in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft.

While Eichel has earned the accolades he’s received, it’s fair to say that the praise for him and BU’s large and talented freshman class in general has led the average fan to underestimate how crucial Rodrigues and several other returning players have been to the Terriers’ resurgence this year.

As the youngest team in college hockey, the Terriers have relied on their upperclassmen to help the new kids on the block with early-game jitters. Captain Matt Grzelcyk and goalie Matt O’Connor have been stabilizing forces, but Rodrigues is the most electrifying player to watch.

“I would have expected him to be up for the Hobey, to be honest, with his performance,” junior goalie Matt O’Connor said in the BU locker room after Saturday’s game. “He’s definitely not only a leader but an all-around phenomenal player. I think a guy like him is one of the main reasons we’re in a spot like this.

“Obviously, we have great young talent, but to have a senior who can really deliver consistently? He’s one of those players that you know is going to deliver every night. Maybe he goes unnoticed, but he definitely doesn’t for a lot of the guys in the room.”

If the focus on Eichel keeps his linemate from getting as much attention has he might, Rodrigues repeatedly has reminded everyone that his post-holiday scoring surge coincided with being moved up to the first line with Eichel and Danny O’Regan.

“He was having a great year before his coach smartened up and put him with Eichel and O’Regan,” BU coach David Quinn said. “Then all hell broke loose.”

“Getting the opportunity to play with Jack and Danny is second to none,” BU captain Matt Grzelcyk said. “When we came back from Christmas, we wanted to make sure that we amped up our play, but he’s been electric all year. Seems like every time he gets the puck, he’s making a play.

“Everybody knows that he has the skills, but not everybody knows he is one of the hardest workers on the team, and he really sets the tone for the rest of the guys in the locker room.”

150103 22191095 Under the radar, Boston Universitys Rodrigues keeps making big contributions

Evan Rodrigues set a Hockey East record with six assists in a game in January (photo: Melissa Wade).

On the biggest stage of his life on Saturday night with the Frozen Four at stake, E-Rod delivered when his team needed it most. Early on, he took a wild golf swing of a shot at a bounding puck and somehow knocked it in the net for the first goal of the night.

And with the game tied 2-2, less than three minutes to go and a power play seconds away from expiring, Rodrigues scored a goal that BU fans will be talking about for years to come.

Grzelcyk slid the puck to him high in the right-wing circle, admitting later he wanted the Ontario native to shoot immediately. Instead, Rodrigues executed his trademark toe-drag, pulling the puck back as a Bulldogs defender lunged headfirst in a valiant effort to block the shot.

With that player out of the way, Rodrigues fired a wrist shot high glove side for the game winner.

After the news conference, Rodrigues agreed that it was the athletic highlight of his life to date.

“I think so. I can’t think of anything bigger than this right now,” he said. “I can’t even remember what I did after I scored. I was so excited. Just to see that go in the net, I was ecstatic.”

Backup goaltender Anthony Moccia laughed and shook his head when asked about the goal. “That’s just poise, and that poise is not just from tonight, it’s from four years of hard work,” he said. “It’s hard to describe. He’s calm but loose at the same time and also knows when to push guys and when to step up. It’s kind of the perfect hockey player mentality.”

On Saturday night, Quinn clearly relished seeing Rodrigues in the limelight.

“I knew he was a great player last year, and his stats obviously didn’t reflect that — nobody’s stats reflected that,” Quinn said. “But boy, this kid, he has a lot of ability. He’s got big-time skill, as he showed tonight. He’s hockey tough — tough to knock off the puck. He has a great release and he’s incredibly intelligent.

“I couldn’t be happier for him. I mean, he’s a 21-year-old senior; there aren’t many of those running around college hockey these days. He’s a great kid, a great student-athlete and he’s having a monster senior season.”

We’ll have to see what he can do for an encore when the Terriers get to play at the TD Garden for the fifth time this season. Moccia probably won’t see any time between the pipes, but he’s excited to have a ringside seat to watch his teammate finish his BU career at the Frozen Four.

“I’ve played with Evan for four years now,” Moccia said. “He’s deceptive with the puck. He’s a guy who shows up and works hard every day. He’s one of my favorite players to watch and one of my favorite friends to be around. I think he definitely got messed over at the Hockey East awards and should be up for the Hobey top 10. I love the guy and can’t wait to see what he does in the Garden next week.”

TMQ: Navigating the regionals aftermath, and a friendly wager on the Frozen Four

DSC 0555 TMQ: Navigating the regionals aftermath, and a friendly wager on the Frozen Four

By winning the East Regional, Providence made it three straight seasons that a No. 4 seed made it to the Frozen Four (photo: Matt Eisenberg).

Each week during the season we look at the big events and big games around Division I men’s college hockey in Tuesday Morning Quarterback.

Jim: We have our Frozen Four field, and the sides of the bracket seem like polar opposites.

On one side you have a first-time team in Omaha and a team that hasn’t been to a Frozen Four in 30 years in Providence. On the other you have two perennial powers over the last three decades in North Dakota and Boston University, clubs that have also been near the top of the polls all season.

Give me your early take on these four who will descend upon Boston next week.

Matthew: I don’t think that UND and BU qualifying for the Frozen Four counts as a big surprise in either case. UND had what felt like a pair of home games against whomever they were going to play in the West Regional 75 miles from Grand Forks, and I thought that BU was probably the No. 1 seed best equipped to navigate through its regional bracket.

I have a feeling that the UND-BU semifinal will probably give us our eventual national champion. There will still be the national title game against either Omaha or Providence, of course, but whoever wins that UND-BU game will be heavily favored the next (and final) time out.

Providence is probably my favorite story of the four teams still left. The Friars got a fortunate regional draw by playing in their own city, but they were good value for their wins over Miami and Denver. Good for Providence, because that region didn’t go at all like I thought it might.

The Midwest Regional really surprised me, too. We had talked before about what Minnesota State had to prove, and the Mavericks weren’t able to get the job done against a Rochester Institute of Technology team that I think snuck up on some people who don’t follow Atlantic Hockey that closely.

Omaha’s a big surprise story, too. The Mavericks were carrying 11 freshmen heading into this season and were picked to finish sixth in the NCHC, and I don’t think anyone saw coming back in October what Omaha has done thus far in this tournament. Their regional bracket did become somewhat easier after the No. 1 seed fell, but RIT gave Omaha all it could handle and the Mavericks won out.

Jim: I agree that Providence probably provided the most entertainment value and debate in their two wins. Taking a 6-2 lead on Saturday against Miami, the Friars held on by their fingernails while the RedHawks scored three extra-attacker goals (after pulling their goaltender with 12 minutes remaining).

Then on Sunday, the Friars were part of a highly debated call against Denver. Tied 1-1 late in the game, Denver’s Joey LaLeggia leveled a Friars player at center ice and, after a lengthy video review, received a five-minute major and game disqualification for contact to the head.

That play put to use the NCAA’s new rule for use of video replay in NCAA tournament games:

93.7 NCAA Championship Competition – During NCAA Championship competition, game officials may use replay during the game to review major penalties that would result in the removal of a student-athlete to ensure proper enforcement.

This is one of this year’s rule changes that I really like. Officials get the opportunity to review such a critical call before making it, something that I believe might even merit use in the regular season but most certainly belongs in the NCAA tournament.

And although it is difficult for fans who have watched hockey for a long time to understand, the officials got the call correct as LaLeggia’s hit was directly to the head of the Friars player.

Providence, though nearly surrendering a short-handed goal first, got the game-winning goal on the ensuing power play and is on to Boston.

Matthew: Let’s stick to Providence and — slightly tenuous link warning — officiating. Miami was without Blake Coleman, one of its leading scorers this season, in that game after picking up his third game misconduct penalty of the season in the NCHC finals in Minneapolis the weekend before.

How much of an effect did Coleman’s absence have on the game? Enrico Blasi wasn’t asked about that after the game — although he was short on everything else that was put his way in the postgame presser, but it seems like once PC won that game, the Friars were on their way.

Jim: Providence certainly won that game in the second period, although Miami gave the fans their entertainment value with the near comeback. It is hard to know how much of a difference Coleman could have made on that game, but it does highlight the importance of staying disciplined late in the season.

It seems so rare that you see players suspended this time of year but the cumulative game misconducts caught up with Coleman, so I have a hard time feeling bad for such a player.

But it certainly seemed like Miami was missing everything in its game in that middle period. It was certainly 20 minutes that cost them their season

Matthew: Is that the biggest disappointment for you from the first two rounds?

Frankly, I’m still a little surprised by Minnesota State’s early exit against RIT. Maybe it wasn’t Holy Cross over Minnesota, but you’re always going to do a double-take when a 16 beats No. 1.

Jim: I think both the WCHA and ECAC Hockey, in general, disappointed. The WCHA got two of the top eight seeds in the tournament (including Minnesota State’s No. 1 overall seed) and didn’t win a game. Michigan Tech couldn’t finish off St. Cloud State and, as you mentioned, Minnesota State lost to RIT.

The ECAC got three teams into the field and didn’t win a single game. Quinnipiac was outclassed by North Dakota (a tough draw, admittedly); Harvard couldn’t solve Omaha; and Yale, the most impressive of the trio, played BU tough but lost in OT.

Obviously, it’s easy to say now that the regionals are over that the NCHC and Hockey East were the class of the tournament thus far (NCHC was 7-4; Hockey East was 4-1). But I really wanted to see more from either the WCHA or ECAC. That is my biggest disappointment.

Matthew: Alas, it is just the NCHC and Hockey East now, though, and the Frozen Four is going to bring together two teams each from the leagues you and I primarily cover for USCHO. Given the occasion, I’m wondering if we ought to put together a little friendly wager.

Regional stereotypes: Maine lobster on your end and Omaha Steaks on mine? What do you say?

Jim: Bring it on. I love good steak!

Thumbs up

Give Miami’s Louie Belpedio an “A” for effort here, even though it came in a losing cause.

Thumbs down

Miami’s Blasi was a man of few words — almost too few — in the RedHawks’ news conference following their first-round loss to Providence. Anger was clearly there to be seen on the dais, but Blasi didn’t seem to show a tremendous amount of grace in defeat.

Coming up

The national semifinals take place April 9 in Boston, with Omaha playing Providence at 5 p.m. EDT and Boston University taking on North Dakota at 8:30. The final is on April 11.

We’ll have coverage every day leading up to and through the tournament, with everything getting added to our Frozen Four Central page.

Doyle to go into Colorado College athletics hall on May 30

Rob Doyle, a 1987 Colorado College graduate, will be enshrined in the Colorado College Athletic Hall of Fame on May 30 at the Cheyenne Mountain Conference Resort in Colorado Springs. A three-time MVP of the team, Doyle scored 51 goals and added 151 assists in his four years at CC. His 202 career points lead all defensemen and are fifth overall on the school’s all-time scoring list.

A couple in stripes: Morrison, Langley balance officiating with life together

morrison langley A couple in stripes: Morrison, Langley balance officiating with life together

College hockey officials Kristine Langley and Johnathan Morrison were married in the summer of 2013 (contributed photo).

Life as a top-flight official, just like as an athlete, can be a bit of a nomadic experience.

Whether that reffing takes place at the Division I college hockey level, in the professional ranks or with some of the country’s best juniors in the USHL, the life of a hockey official usually means being willing to travel and go wherever you are needed.

Longtime official Johnathan Morrison has just about seen and done it all, officiating in the USHL, AHL, Ontario Hockey League and ECHL. Sprinkled in among a distinguished college officiating career are stops to such far-flung hockey destinations as the Netherlands and Japan.

“I grew up in Mason City, Iowa, and I was pretty fortunate that there was a USHL team [the North Iowa Huskies] in my hometown,” Morrison said. “Both my dad and my uncle had officiated in that league for quite some time, so it was just a natural thing to get into officiating myself. Now I’ve been able to referee overseas. As a ref, we often carry the attitude of ‘pack bags, will travel.’”

Morrison’s wife Kristine Langley’s officiating path is considerably different. She rose through the ranks, starting her high-end officiating career at the college hockey level in the women’s WCHA the year after she completed four years of Division I hockey (2001-05) as a defenseman at Wayne State.

“Officiating is a great way to stay on the ice and get more ice time than just practice,” said Langley, who followed her father and her older brother into the profession starting at the ripe old age of 10.

She dreamed of following in the footsteps of another official, Evonne Young (now Young-Fix), who worked as an official in Nagano, Japan, during the 1998 Winter Olympics.

“I remember thinking, ‘She went to the Olympics and I really want to do that,’” Langley said. “Interestingly, she refereed my first college game, which I served as a linesman for, while we [officiated] together for her final college game.”

Langley has grown into one of the most respected women’s hockey refs in the United States and has excelled at several IIHF events overseas.

So when Langley and Morrison, married in the summer of 2013, finally crossed paths with assignments in the same city in February, it may have seemed like a blessing.

The timing could have worked out a little better, though.

morrison A couple in stripes: Morrison, Langley balance officiating with life together

Johnathan Morrison works Big Ten games in Minnesota and Wisconsin as a linesman (photo: Jim Rosvold).

“We are both laughing because we literally barely saw each other in Madison,” Morrison said of the couple’s weekend in Wisconsin for Feb. 19-21 men’s and women’s series. “It’s funny, because it was the first time that we were on the road together in three years and our schedules were so opposite at Wisconsin.”

Langley and Morrison’s devoted relationship is far from a typical one. Yet, the two have found many benefits in their situation.

“Many peers of ours make sure to contact their spouse continuously, and stay in touch throughout a weekend of traveling,” Morrison said. “We both know the job we have to do and the focus we have to have to do it well. [Instead], Krissy and I usually stay in touch via a little text message stating, ‘Did everything go OK in your game?’ The other will respond with something like, ‘Good, now get back to work.’”

Around the house it’s a melding of the minds between two people always honing their craft.

“We joke that our pillow talk is more about rule knowledge and rule interpretations,” Langley said. “I learn a lot from talking with Johnathan about different situations, so it’s really fun for us to be able to share our profession.”

Originally, it was Morrison’s career that involved more traveling. Rising upward through the USHL, Morrison had his sights squarely set on officiating in the NHL. But after developmental refereeing stints in the Ontario Hockey League and the AHL, that path wore stale and Morrison found himself a more comfortable home in college hockey ranks and later primarily as a linesman.

At present, Morrison is the more home-bound of the pair, carrying on a winter day job as the coordinator of travel and logistics for USA Hockey’s junior development program, and as a Big Ten and AHL linesman serving around Minnesota and Wisconsin.

His generally twice-a-month travels are a far cry from his truly nomadic AHL days. Last year Morrison bid farewell to the USHL after over 20 years of service but he still serves as a linesman in the AHL from time to time.

“I’m very fortunate and lucky in the fact that I usually get to work from home during the hockey season,” said Morrison, who also owns a college moving business that operates in the summer. “When I supervise for the USA junior development program, I do my best to stay local and I try to plan that supervision on the weekends when Krissy is gone because if both of us are headed in opposite directions, it becomes stressful.”

On the other hand, Langley continues to keep on the move, wearing her stripes and orange band for weekends spent throughout the WCHA’s Midwestern footprint.

“That weekend in Madison was rare and it actually was the first time since Bemidji three years ago that we traveled to the same place,” Langley said. “Last year I worked 40 individual hockey games, and whether it was Minnesota and sleeping in my bed at home or more likely traveling, that was a lot of time away from home in our first year of marriage.”

Her day job continues to evolve at General Mills. If you’ve ever had a Progresso Soup, or perhaps eaten or baked a Betty Crocker product, chances are she played a part in its development.

“I have a food science degree and currently I’m a technician at General Mills,” Langley said. “So that’s my day job in corporate America. There are a lot of skills, especially the teamwork aspects that the job teaches me that I use in regards to hockey and I feel the same way about how hockey has helped me professionally.”

That role has made her popular with her peers.

“Those years when I supported Betty Crocker products I would go on a lot of hockey trips or go to hockey games and bring treats for my partners,” Langley said. “That was kind of a fun door opener to build relationships with my fellow refs. I can’t really do that as much with soup.”

langley A couple in stripes: Morrison, Langley balance officiating with life together

Kristine Langley worked the 2015 women’s Frozen Four semifinal between Harvard and Boston College (photo: Jim Rosvold).

Often one or the other is on the road during the hockey season, sometimes traveling internationally, for extended periods of time. That time apart can certainly create some strains, especially on the household bulldog.

Yet their mutual bonds and love of the sport help carry them through the low points.

“There are some weekends where we don’t even have to call each other if we are on the road reffing a couple of days,” Morrison said. “You are very focused on what your job is that weekend and there is no harm in that for us, but it is obviously not the same for other couples in similar situations.”

They both relish sharing memories with their peers or when they cross paths with someone that shared in their favorite officiating moments.

For Langley, it was a pair of marathon NCAA games at Ridder Arena — the 2010 NCAA title game, in which Minnesota-Duluth defeat Cornell in double overtime, and a more recent three-extra-period classic between rivals Minnesota and North Dakota in the 2013 NCAA first round.

“Leah Wrazidlo and I were reffing together, and that game went into triple overtime,” Langley said. “It was one of those games where the referees should not be a factor and these players were just playing their heart out. We were doing what we can to stay out of the way, but also to make sure that if a penalty happens or a call has to happen, that it counts and it’s the right call. Just being the ice for almost two full games was a remarkable experience.”

Morrison’s favorite officiating memory was a famous 2011 World Junior Championship title tilt between longtime geopolitical rivals Canada and Russia.

“To be able to skate a gold medal game with fellow American ref Keith Kaval on our home soil in that atmosphere was crazy and intense,” Morrison said. “Plus, it was the game where Russia was down 3-0 after two periods and came back to win 5-3.”

A few years before, he also earned the right for the unique experience of officiating the sled hockey gold medal game in Torino.

“I was fresh into the sport but had a really good tournament and was actually assigned to do the gold medal game at the Paralympics between Canada and Norway,” Morrison said. “To be put in a situation like that with medals on the line and to come out of it feeling like you did an amazing job and gave the players the type of effort that they deserve is something I’ll never forget.”

That deep-down love for the sport often makes the difference during the times when their relationship could be strained. And it’s that shared love that really makes the pair feel lucky to have found each other.

“Johnathan’s often telling officials that if they are in relationships with people that don’t understand hockey, how difficult it is,” Langley said. “I think for us, we are lucky. We are lucky in the fact that there are some weekends where we don’t even have to call each other. There is no harm in that for us, but obviously, it’s not the same for other couples.”

Expect both to continue to wear the stripes for a long time forward.

Explaining his magic, Omaha’s Massa has a simple answer: ‘It’s just my job’

20141212 Omaha StCloudState 03 MBishop Explaining his magic, Omahas Massa has a simple answer: Its just my job

Omaha’s Ryan Massa stopped all 40 shots he faced in the Midwest Regional final (photo: Michelle Bishop, file).

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Omaha goaltender Ryan Massa handles words as efficiently as he handles pucks.

In Sunday night’s 4-0 win over Rochester Institute of Technology, the Mavericks trailed in shots on goal 22-19 through the first two periods, in spite of a five-minute power play early in the game.

Through the first 41 minutes, until Jake Randolph scored the game-winning goal at 1:01 in the third, Massa was tested repeatedly and when he was asked about it after the game, the senior had the simplest of answers.

“It’s just my job,” he said. “On the roster, I’m listed as a goalie, so my job is to keep the puck out of the net at whatever cost it may be.”

And Massa did just that, allowing one goal in two games in the Midwest Regional with a two-day save percentage of .986 and backstopping the Mavericks to their first Frozen Four — to their first two NCAA tournament wins, ever.

Massa said that RIT “put on one hell of a fight,” that the Tigers “were limiting our time and space. They were making physical hits on our top players.” But, said Massa, “It was just a matter of time.

“I had to keep the boys settled and keep them in it to give them a fighting chance to get a greasy goal, to get an opportunity and fortunately Randy found the back of the net first and from there everything kept going.”

Massa and the Mavericks played with that one-goal lead until late in the third period, when they scored three goals in quick succession to secure their trip to Boston in two weeks. Sophomore forward Jake Guentzel, who had assists on UNO’s second and third goals Sunday, said that the Mavericks might have suffered another fate without Massa in net.

“A lot of the credit goes to Ryan,” said Guentzel. “He kept us in for a while, the whole game, and without him it would’ve been a whole new game.”

This season, Massa’s numbers put him among the top netminders in the country, fifth in GAA (1.92) and with this weekend’s performance, first in save percentage (.939). With a record of 11-9-1 last year, Massa’s GAA was 2.74 and his save percentage .899.

He skipped the first half of his sophomore season to “reprioritize,” as he said, following a disappointing end to his freshman year, during which he suffered concussions that affected his attitude toward the game.

“I really didn’t have that passion for hockey anymore,” Massa said. “I didn’t feel every day waking up wanting to go to the rink.”

But between his junior and senior years, Massa rededicated himself to his craft — to his job as goaltender.

“I really buckled down and worked extremely hard in developing and fine-tuning my game,” said Massa, “to put myself in a position to be where we are today.”

And the position the Mavericks hold is one of the last four teams standing in the 2014-15 season, with a goaltender who came through when he was needed most.

“The road of a goaltender is certainly filled with a lot of highs and even more lows,” said Massa. “It’s just your ability to persevere and get through those lows that put you in opportunities to succeed.”

Stevenson adding men’s hockey, will join ECAC West in 2016-17

Stevenson University announced on Friday that is adding men’s hockey as its 27th NCAA Division III sport with the team’s inaugural season set for 2016-17 where the Mustangs will join the ECAC West.

The university has already begun its search for a head coach. The team will use Reisterstown Sportsplex in Reisterstown, Md., as its game and practice facility.

“We are extremely excited to welcome Stevenson into the ECAC Men’s West Hockey League,” said ECAC president Dr. Kevin McGinniss in a news release. “Stevenson has been an innovative athletics program and adding men’s ice hockey is yet another reminder of the University’s strong commitment to its student-athletes. Stevenson will be a great addition to an already extremely competitive league.”

The Stevenson women’s team, which just completed its third season, posted a program-best 16-8-1 record this year.

“The success of our women’s ice hockey team really paved the way for the addition of a men’s program,” added Stevenson director of athletics Brett Adams. “Not only is our women’s squad enjoying success on the ice, but the quality of student-athletes that we are attracting through the program fits Stevenson University perfectly. We are excited to offer this opportunity to men’s ice hockey players from across the region as well.”

Less extra-attacker drama but the same result for Frozen Four-bound Providence

DSC 0539 Less extra attacker drama but the same result for Frozen Four bound Providence

Providence’s Tom Parisi fires the tie-breaking goal in the Friars’ win over Denver on Sunday (photo: Matt Eisenberg).

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Providence coach Nate Leaman had just finished his opening statement in the postgame press conference Sunday following the Friars’ win over Denver when he leaned over the microphone to add a final thought.

“One last point: We were able to hit the empty nets,” he said, referring to the two late goals Providence scored with Denver goalie Tanner Jaillet pulled for a 4-1 victory. “We hit the first empty net and the guys were celebrating on the bench and I’m like ‘No, no, there’s a lot of game left here, boys. Remember last night.’”

Leaman was referring to Saturday’s game against Miami, where the Friars watched the RedHawks score three extra-attacker goals to turn a 6-2 lead into a heart-throbbing 6-5 advantage, and nearly connect on a fourth to tie the game before Brandon Tanev sealed the win with an empty-netter in the closing seconds.

The Friars found themselves in a similar situation Sunday night. Up 2-1 on Denver thanks to a late power-play goal by Tom Parisi, Providence once again faced an extra-attacker situation as the Pioneers pulled goalie Tanner Jaillet in the closing minutes, looking for the equalizer.

But this time the Friars held, as Tanev and Kevin Rooney each added an empty-net goal to secure the win and send Providence to the Frozen Four for the first time since 1985.

It was an interesting weekend for the fourth-seeded Friars, who not only watched Miami come roaring back Saturday but saw Denver tie it up with a fluky power-play goal midway through the final period.

Defenseman Joey LaLeggia launched a shot from the point that ripped off the glass, rolling on top of the net before bouncing off goalie Jon Gillies and past the goal line.

“I watched it go over the net and then I heard it hit the glass and I saw a bunch of eyes in front of me looking straight up and I fell backwards and hit the puck into the net,” Gillies said.

It was the type of goal that could have given new life to Denver, as the Friars and Gillies had successfully stymied the Pioneers’ high-powered attack for much of the game. But Providence held tight and took the lead for good on Parisi’s goal at 14:59.

“It was an unlucky bounce but the boys had my back and we were able to battle back,” Gillies said.

LaLeggia hit costly

Denver coach Jim Montgomery likes to attack. It’s how the Pioneers play, and it’s been a large part of their success this year.

But that aggressive style cost them against the Friars, as LaLeggia was called for a five-minute major and game disqualification for contact to the head after wiping out Providence’s Steven McParland near center ice at 10:37 of the third period.

“He’s playing the way coach wanted us to play,” Denver senior Daniel Doremus said. “We’re not going to change the way we play. We were just going hard and trying to win the game.”

Montgomery didn’t necessarily disagree with the call, saying it was a great hockey play, but acknowledged the way the game is played has changed. Still, he said he sees the need for consistent officiating throughout college hockey.

“I guess you’re supposed to back off and let a guy attack you instead of angling that puck like I’ve taught them,” Montgomery said. “Joe LaLeggia did everything I asked of him on that play and unfortunately it was head contact. …

“I do think that we need uniform officiating in college hockey; it’s long overdue. During the regular season, when an East team comes West, or when a West team goes East, you’re playing by a new set of rules. I think it’s important that as a body of coaches that we get one guy in charge of all the other supervisors of the different leagues.”

Notes

• Providence will make its fourth Frozen Four appearance. Besides 1985, the Friars also appeared in the 1983 and 1964 Frozen Fours.

• Forwards Shane Luke, Noel Acciari, (Providence) and Grant Arnold (Denver), along with LaLeggia, Parisi and Gillies were named to the all-East Regional team. Acciari was named the regional’s most outstanding player.

Canisius defender Rumble leaves Griffs for ECHL contract

DSC 1775 Canisius defender Rumble leaves Griffs for ECHL contract

Chris Rumble will leave a big hole on the Canisius blue line after signing an ECHL contract on Saturday (photo: Omar Phillips).

Canisius junior defenseman Chris Rumble signed a contract with the ECHL’s Evansville Icemen on Saturday and will forego his final year of collegiate eligibility.

The first Canisius defender to collect First Team all-conference accolades since Derek Gilham during the 1998-99 season, Rumble led all Canisius blueliners with 20 points on seven goals and 13 assists this season and also helped anchor the top scoring defense in Atlantic Hockey, allowing a school-record low 2.24 goals per game.

In 84 games with Canisius, Rumble recorded 14 goals and 32 assists for 46 points and finishes his career ranked fourth in school history among defenders in points, third in goals and fifth in assists.

After allowing opening goal, McIntyre stays the course for North Dakota

2015032822 18 2317875 After allowing opening goal, McIntyre stays the course for North Dakota

Zane McIntyre made 19 saves in helping North Dakota to a second straight Frozen Four (photo: Jim Rosvold).

FARGO, N.D. — The arena roared. There was one minute left on the clock but no one heard the announcement.

The regional tournament most outstanding player, Zane McIntyre, spent most of the game in front of a familiar fan base that traveled just over an hour south to cheer on a North Dakota team that was bound and determined to make another trip to the Frozen Four.

It didn’t quite look that way at first.

The goaltender was beat by a shot by Jimmy Murray at 1:29 of the opening frame, but that was the only St. Cloud State shot he was going to let past him. The mentality moving forward was simple.

“Just don’t let the next shot in, I guess,” McIntyre said.

He didn’t. The goaltender made 19 saves for UND and held on for a 4-1 victory over St. Cloud State in the NCAA West Regional final on Saturday night at Scheels Arena.

“Zane’s been one of our most important guys throughout the year,” UND coach Dave Hakstol said. “He’s an anchor for us. We all trust him back there. He gives us an opportunity, if we’re stumbling a little bit, to kind of regain our composure and get back after it.”

UND did just that as it followed up with four straight goals, knowing what was on the line.

McIntyre said he quickly put the situation behind him and maintained a positive mindset.

“This is what we all worked hard for,” McIntyre said. “So we just had to reset and refocus, just kind of go from there. You’re going to have bounces and you’re going to have ups and downs throughout the game and throughout the course of the year, but the best thing I’ve maybe learned over my past three years here is stay the course. Keep going because you never know what could happen.”

McIntyre owns a 5-1 NCAA tournament record with a 1.26 GAA and a .957 save percentage.

The arena where McIntyre spent two years before UND playing for the USHL’s Fargo Force sounded a little different on Saturday.

Cheers from UND fans echoed loudly throughout the game, although that was no surprise to McIntyre.

A Boston-bound team fed off an energetic crowd that has proved its loyalty time and time again.

“I think when you look at the attendance rates throughout college hockey, it’s no question UND is No. 1 for a reason,” McIntyre said. “You go across the whole state, it’s UND Fighting Sioux colors and bleeding green and stuff. It’s pretty special to be a part of, not only as a player, but as a teammate for all these guys and all these coaches … It’s pretty special is all I can say. Thank you guys.”

Omaha appreciates first NCAA tournament win but isn’t satisfied

20150328 OMAHA Harvard Kelley 6 Omaha appreciates first NCAA tournament win but isnt satisfied

Omaha’s Justin Parizek passes in the Mavericks’ win over Harvard (photo: Eric Kelley).

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Saturday’s game between Harvard and Omaha featured two programs with very different stories. Harvard played its first game Jan. 19, 1898. UNO played its first Division I hockey game nearly 100 years later, Oct. 17, 1997.

In spite of their contrasting histories, both the Crimson and the Mavericks came to this year’s NCAA tournament not just to advance but to establish something lasting for each of their programs.

The 4-1 win over Harvard was the third NCAA tournament game in Omaha history and the program’s first win. While the accomplishment wasn’t lost on the UNO team, the Mavericks players said that they don’t have time to pause and reflect — yet.

“It’s a great feeling, but at the same time it’s not satisfying,” said senior goaltender Ryan Massa, who had 33 saves in the win. “It’s not what we came here to do. Yeah, we came here to win that first game to get us to an opportunity to compete in the Frozen Four in Boston, but we still have a full 60 minutes tomorrow night against a good hockey club that beat the No. 1 seed, so for us it’s pretty short enjoyment.

“It’s nice reaching a milestone as an organization, but our work’s far from over.”

“You look at a lot of great players that have come through UNO,” said junior defenseman Brian Cooper. “This is for them, too. It’s a huge step for our program, but like Ryan said, we’re not satisfied yet. We want to extend the season for as long as we can.”

UNO coach Dean Blais is no stranger to NCAA tournament success. Between North Dakota, where he served as head coach from 1994 to 2004, and Omaha, Blais has led teams to eight NCAA tournament appearances, and he coached North Dakota to national titles in 1997 and 2000.

With the benefit of his perspective, Blais understands the real significance for this first win for the Mavericks. Winning breeds winning.

“It’s everything,” said Blais. “In North Dakota, we were expected to win championships. It means a lot for this program, for the first win out of the three times they’ve been in the NCAA tournament. [The championship] just another milestone that we’re going to have to keep working toward.”

For Harvard, this was the 22nd NCAA tournament appearance in program history, but the first since 2006. The Crimson have reached the Frozen Four a dozen times, but they haven’t been that close to a national championship since 1994.

Harvard ended its 2014-15 season with 21 wins — one more win than the Crimson amassed in the past two seasons combined. Senior defenseman Max Everson said that he’s seen the team transformed in his time in Cambridge.

“Coming in freshman year, I had a decent idea of what to expect because my older brother was a couple years ahead of me there,” said Everson. “We had a really good year that year. In the second half of that year, we came on strong and just missed the national tournament, lost the ECAC final.

“It was a strong year, but … my sophomore and junior year there were some struggles on and off the ice that we had to deal with. Not nearly as many wins as we wanted, a lot of setbacks in different areas and injuries and other stuff going on.

“Those were a couple of tough years, but we were able to put all that behind us this year. We evaluated the talent we had in the locker room and evaluated the strength and the character of our guys, and we knew what we could accomplish.”

“First two years, both were 10-win seasons,” said junior forward Jimmy Vesey. “This year, we finished with 21 wins, ninth in the PairWise, national tournament berth.”

Vesey had a renaissance of his own this season with 32 goals — eight more than he produced in his freshman and sophomore years combined.

“If you look at our lineup,” said Vesey, “we’re still very young, very talented, and we have a great coaching staff so I’d say that Harvard hockey is here to stay in the long run in the national picture.”

Miami comes painfully close to completing miracle comeback against Providence

DSC 0250 Miami comes painfully close to completing miracle comeback against Providence

Miami’s Louie Belpedio dives to clear a shot at an empty net away from his goal on Saturday (photo: Matt Eisenberg).

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — None of the 7,908 who were at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center Saturday night will ever forget the game between regional top seed Miami and de facto home team Providence.

It wasn’t memorable for Providence’s seven goals, although it was the second-most the Friars scored all year. It wasn’t memorable for Miami’s disastrous play through 40 minutes, although it was certainly among the RedHawks’ worst two periods in recent memory.

It wasn’t even memorable for Providence earning its second straight appearance in the NCAA East Regional final. (The Friars beat Quinnipiac before losing to Union in Bridgeport, Conn., last spring.)

No, it was memorable for Miami’s three extra-attacker goals, scored over the final 8:34 of the third period, in defiance of all reason, sense, and probability. It will stand forever as one of the most incredible, damn-the-torpedoes, full-speed-ahead performances in NCAA history.

And in some way, it will be even more memorable because ultimately, Miami lost. The magical, miracle comeback fell short; Cinderella’s shoe was a size too big.

The RedHawks blocked two empty-net bids; Louie Belpedio sacrificed himself to clear a sure empty-net goal off the goal line, to the extent that he had to crawl the 60 feet back to the bench.

Alternate captain, senior center and leading scorer Austin Czarnik had the game-tying goal in his skates with 25 seconds remaining and Providence goalie Jon Gillies way out of position, but he couldn’t put his blade on the biscuit.

The RedHawks and coach Rico Blasi had redemption in their sights, just one goal away. Not just redemption for a miserable 40 minutes of NCAA play, but for six years of regret.

No, none of the undergraduate members of the Brotherhood played in the national title game in 2009, but the game is legendary: Miami, up 3-1 with a minute remaining, surrendered two extra-attacker goals to Boston University. Overtime — and Miami’s flickering optimism — lasted 11:47 before BU’s Colby Cohen extinguished it.

Blasi would rather not live every game through the lens of that exceptionally depressing game, even Saturday’s. He said that the crown-that-could-have-been never crossed his mind Saturday, and that the team stuck with the plan as it was outlined during the second intermission: Goalie out around the 14-minute mark, and play like your hair’s on fire.

The closest thing these RedHawks players may have to a veteran of the 2009 finale is senior forward Alex Wideman. His brother — current Binghamton Senators defenseman Chris Wideman — was a freshman on the 2008-09 team.

“Just never give up,” is advice he learned from his brother. “It’s not over until the horn blows. You might be up four or five goals, but it doesn’t matter.

“In the locker room between the second and third period, nobody was down. We know it’s their ‘home rink,’ whatever, but we’ve been on the road all year. It’s a hostile environment. Just unfortunately, the bounce at the end didn’t go our way. It sucks that it fell short, but I’ve got all the faith in the guys for next year and the years to come.”

Years to come from now, people will still be retelling the Title That Wasn’t. But now, at least, there will be another story written in The Brotherhood’s expanding tome: The Miracle that Almost Was.

In ‘heavyweight fight,’ Boston University comes up with a late knockout

694A7340 In heavyweight fight, Boston University comes up with a late knockout

Boston University and Minnesota-Duluth traded stretches of dominance before the Terriers emerged with a late winner (photo: Melissa Wade).

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Minnesota-Duluth could not have come much closer to its fifth trip to the Frozen Four.

The Bulldogs came into their contest with Boston University a decided underdog in many observers’ eyes. While they were a respected No.2 seed, and BU the regional’s top seed, the gap between the two appeared larger than that.

BU had been in the top three or four in the national rankings for most of the season, won the Hockey East regular season title and then added the league’s tournament championship.

By contrast, Duluth enjoyed the benefits and stature of being part of the NCHC, college hockey’s clearly dominant conference this season, but had finished fifth of eight teams in the league and got bounced by Denver 4-3 and 4-0 in the opening round of the tournament.

While BU boasted the No. 1 offense in the country, Duluth ranked 23rd in offense and 25th in defense.

BU clearly had the star power. Jack Eichel, college hockey’s top scorer, had accumulated only one fewer point than the three members of Duluth’s top line combined. The Bulldogs, in fact, were one of the few teams to enter the tournament without a single 30-point producer.

Props were due Duluth for emerging from the toughest conference and then thoroughly throttling cross-state rival Minnesota in the first game. Clearly, this was a team that had earned its seeding.

But the favorite remained Boston University.

The Terriers jumped out to a 1-0 first period lead, but Duluth tied it in the opening minute of the second, and by period’s end it was 2-2.

Anybody’s game.

“That was a playoff game in every sense of the word,” BU coach David Quinn said afterward. “It was like a heavyweight fight. We controlled the first few rounds, almost had a couple opportunities to deliver a knockout punch, but they’d come back and dominate for 10 or 12 minutes. Then we’d come back and dominate for 10 or 12 minutes.

“Then we did what we do best. We played a great third period. We were relentless. We were smart. We did the things we needed to do to win an incredibly important hockey game.”

Understandably, Duluth saw the third period differently. The Bulldogs’ focus fell squarely on the holding penalty called with less than five minutes left in regulation.

Some will say it looked like a penalty.

But.

The resulting power play for BU was only the second such advantage for either team all game.

The Bulldogs had to be thinking, not now!

To their credit, they killed almost the entire penalty.

Almost.

The saddest word in playoff hockey.

Evan Rodrigues scored the game-winner on a slick toe drag with one second remaining on the power play.

One second.

And although the Bulldogs mounted ferocious pressure in the final minute with their goaltender pulled, even requiring video replay to determine that somehow they hadn’t gotten the puck across the line, they couldn’t get the equalizer. The Terriers had a 3-2 victory.

So close, but yet so far.

“We could have had a couple bounces, but that’s how hockey is,” Alex Iafallo said. “You’ve got to respect [BU], but it’s a tough one to swallow.

“It stings. It’s not how you want the season to end. You don’t expect that to happen.”

Without using the word “penalty,” Duluth coach Scott Sandelin said what his team was thinking.

“It was a great hockey game,” he said. “It’s unfortunate the way it ended. I’ll leave it at that.

“What can you say? They made a play at the end of the power play to win the hockey game. They’re moving on and we’re not.”

When pressed, he added, “It’s just unfortunate that it had to end like … that.

“For all the great chances they had, I would have liked to see it continue, just let the kids play and decide the game.”

Those wishes didn’t come true.

And words by BU’s coach rang true and bitter at the same time.

“There’s a small margin of error in every hockey game,” Quinn said, “and that margin gets smaller and smaller the later you play.”

Good start, determined defense key another RIT first-round upset

20150328 RIT Minn Kelley 10 Good start, determined defense key another RIT first round upset

Jordan Ruby stopped 33 shots for RIT (photo: Eric Kelley).

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — It took five seasons, but lightning struck again in the NCAA tournament Saturday afternoon. Atlantic Hockey autobid Rochester Institute of Technology took down another No. 1 seed.

From the get-go, the Tigers fed off a hyperactive and well-traveled fan section and ambushed Minnesota State 2-1.

The top-seeded Mavericks came out trying to get their speedy offense going, but they found themselves up against a fearless Tigers squad that beat the Mavericks at their own game early in the first.

“That’s the nature of our team,” Tigers coach Wayne Wilson said. “We’re very up-tempo. We’re not a trapping-type team. When I watched Minnesota State, I thought we’re very similar in styles. They get up and down the ice. I thought they were very tenacious from the drop of the puck. You’ve got to be awful conscious off of faceoffs. They really get off of circles really quick and get on loose pucks.”

And Alexander Kuqali’s first-period goal punctuated that.

“I thought the first goal was important,” Wilson said. “It got us grounded and off to a good start.”

RIT spent the next 20-plus minutes keeping the Mavericks offense off the score sheet. Minnesota State got the tying goal but no more thanks to a determined defense that blocked 26 shots and killed five penalties — each one becoming more of a critical kill than the last.

“I thought they did a good job of eliminating second and third chances,” Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said. “They really did a good job of getting inside those hash marks, making sure the puck didn’t get below the circles.”

The storms kept coming and came to a head with Chase Norrish’s penalty early in the third. But goaltender Jordan Ruby and the resilient Tigers didn’t flinch, killing that key penalty and setting up Josh Mitchell’s controversial game-winning goal just a few minutes later.

“Right at the bitter end there, we were tied at one and we knew that Jordan was going to be there,” Mitchell said. “He gave us a lot of confidence to just keep driving and play the game and hopefully get some offense going. It felt good to reward his play, for sure.”

“I tell our penalty killers, if you’re doing your job, it’s more valuable,” Wilson said. “Nothing goes up on the board if you kill successfully. But if you’re not successful on your penalty, there’s a goal up on the board, it’s 1-0.”

With time running down, the confident Tigers kept blocking and blocking to seal the deal.

“For as hard as they came in the third period and really most of the game, I thought we were composed,” Wilson said. “When they pulled their goalie I thought we did some key things in relieving some of the pressure. A lot of key moments I thought we came out big and rose to the occasion when we needed to and weathered some storms when we needed to.”

Now, the task ahead is to make their second Frozen Four trip in as many NCAA appearances in such a short Division I history. Any doubt of that possibility seems far away.

“It gives us momentum now,” Wilson said. “It gives us credibility amongst ourselves — yes, we can do it, and now we move on to the next opponent. We’re hoping to use momentum and energy for a 60-minute game. That’s what it comes down to. Sixty minutes goes by pretty quick, so you have to get off to a good start. Tomorrow’s going to be just as important to get started quickly.”

Denver gets better of matchup of elite defensemen against Boston College

DSC 0119 Denver gets better of matchup of elite defensemen against Boston College

Denver scored three goals in the third to pull away from Boston College (photo: Matt Eisenberg).

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — With each team skating three NHL draft picks on defense, goals figured to be at a premium Saturday between Denver and Boston College in the opening game of the East Regional.

The game appeared to be shaping up as a tight defensive matchup, but the Pioneers scored two goals in a span of 59 seconds midway through the third period to turn a 2-1 lead into a 4-1 advantage.

That was too much to overcome for a Boston College team that wasn’t its usual high-scoring self this season. The Eagles cut it to 4-2 on Ryan Fitzgerald’s power-play goal late in the third, but Denver responded with an empty-net goal to make it 5-2.

“We had a couple of good chances to get it to 2-2, but Denver played well and they deserved to go on,” Boston College coach Jerry York said.

It was only the second NCAA tournament win for Denver since 2005, when the Pioneers won the second of two straight national titles. Denver made the tournament seven straight years entering this season, but lost in the first round each time with the exception of 2011. Last year’s loss came against the Eagles, with BC erupting for six goals en route to winning the Northeast Regional in Worcester, Mass.

The Pioneers’ defense not only held the Eagles to 13 shots on goal through the first two periods and 24 in the game but contributed offensively as well. Senior Hobey Baker Award finalist Joey LeLeggia’s power-play goal made it 1-0 at 4:48 in the first, while Will Butcher scored the first of Denver’s two quick-strike goals in the third period.

“Our defensemen being active is a huge part of our system,” Butcher said. “Moving off pucks and creating some space for ourselves is a big key to success for our team.”

LeLeggia’s goal was his 14th of the season, the second-most by a defenseman in the nation, trailing only the 15 scored by Notre Dame’s Robbie Russo.

“They have some skilled defensemen. They moved the puck pretty well, so we found ourselves chasing some pucks,” York said. “I thought it was a good, solid effort by our team, but Denver was just a touch better.”

In turn, the Pioneers’ forwards were able to keep Boston College’s talented defensive group, which includes a likely first-round pick in freshman Noah Hanifin, from making much of an impact in the game.

“I think our puck pressure [did well], not letting their defensemen really possess the puck, especially in the neutral zone,” Denver coach Jim Montgomery said.

“You’re not going to shut down that D corps all night long, but for the most part our forwards were very conscious and did a great job of making sure the puck got out of their hands quickly,” he added.

Arnold comes up big for Denver

Denver junior captain and fourth-line winger Grant Arnold entered Saturday’s game with no goals this season and only three in 113 career games. He nearly equaled his collegiate total in the third period alone, snapping a shot past Demko from the low slot at 9:04, and then sealed the game with an empty-net goal in the closing minutes of the game.

“It was an awesome time to score the first one, that’s for sure,” Arnold said. “My mindset in the playoffs has always been that it’s a new season, so one game, [two goals] for me so far.”

New Hampshire blueliner Pesce leaves early for Carolina deal

150315 20512468 New Hampshire blueliner Pesce leaves early for Carolina deal

Brett Pesce (UNH – 22) will not be back for his senior season with New Hampshire after signing with Carolina on Friday (photo: Melissa Wade).

New Hampshire junior defenseman Brett Pesce signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday, giving up his senior season with the Wildcats.

“Brett has been a tremendous asset to our hockey program both on and off the ice,” said UNH coach Dick Umile in a statement. “We all wish him nothing but the best as his career moves forward.”

Pesce, who was originally drafted by Carolina in the third round (66th overall) in the 2013 NHL draft, recorded three goals and 13 assists for 16 points in 31 games in 2014-15.

In 110 career games as a UNH Wildcat, he compiled 43 points on 11 goals and 32 assists.

After turning the page, North Dakota back to a familiar style and result

2015032720 07 0616285 After turning the page, North Dakota back to a familiar style and result

Tucker Poolman (3) celebrates with North Dakota teammates (photo: Jim Rosvold).

FARGO, N.D. — Two few weeks ago, regular season champion North Dakota had a little bit of trouble putting away last-place Colorado College in the first round of the NCHC playoffs.

Mark MacMillan, the leading scorer for UND, was lost to a season-ending leg injury at the end of February and the team missed his presence.

UND managed to get over it, pick up a sweep of the Tigers and advance to the Frozen Faceoff as the favorite to win it and claim the NCAA tournament’s No. 1 overall seed.

That’s when things started to briefly go downward for UND.

North Dakota’s first-round matchup was with St. Cloud State, a team that needed to win just to get into the NCAA tournament. UND felt MacMillan’s absence again and fell to the Huskies 3-1 after having its offense stifled. It didn’t get any better in the third-place game as UND was crushed by Denver 5-1 and slipped to No. 2 overall.

In the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday, however, North Dakota went back to its old style. It got the lead early, started hitting Quinnipiac to throw the Bobcats off their game, played strong defense and had another stellar performance from Zane McIntyre (29 saves).

After a 4-1 victory, UND is on the verge of returning to the Frozen Four, with a familiar conference foe in its way. North Dakota plays St. Cloud State in Saturday’s West Regional final.

North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol insisted there was no need to bounce back after their tough weekend in Minneapolis.

“Teams have ups and downs,” he said. “This group of guys has been able to [turn the page] every week during the season. Last weekend has very little to do with this weekend. It’s part of the season.”

The way Hakstol put it, North Dakota players have indeed turned the page, and as a result, the program has advanced to its fifth straight regional championship game.

“It’s obviously a big opportunity for our hockey team,” UND defenseman Troy Stecher said about the rematch with St. Cloud State, which beat Michigan Tech earlier Friday. “Last week they beat us, but it’s a new week. We just gotta go do the little things to try to win the hockey game.”

“After our last game went with them, there’s definitely motivation,” Tucker Poolman said. “More so, we’re playing for a berth in the Frozen Four.”

Brodzinski lauded for ‘unbelievable character’ in shaking off injury for St. Cloud State

2015032718 09 2415935 Brodzinski lauded for unbelievable character in shaking off injury for St. Cloud State

Jonny Brodzinski (22) gave St. Cloud State life with a tying goal in the final minute of the West Regional semifinal against Michigan Tech (photo: Jim Rosvold).

FARGO, N.D. — Jonny Brodzinski wasn’t ready for the season to end.

Just 37.3 seconds away from defeat Friday, Brodzinski took a shot that slipped behind Jamie Phillips and sent St. Cloud State into overtime with Michigan Tech. A Michigan Tech turnover led to an SCSU goal and a 3-2 victory in the NCAA West Regional semifinals.

Earlier in the game, his teammates weren’t sure if Brodzinski would be back on the ice.

During the first period, Brodzinski took a hit in a collision behind the Michigan Tech net and went down the tunnel into the locker room.

St. Cloud State was without its leading scorer, and the uncertainty of Brodzinski’s return led to offensive struggles.

“I thought it did when he got hurt,” SCSU coach Bob Motzko said. “Guys like that don’t stay down. We’ve had some big injuries in the last few weeks and our bench got silent.”

Brodzinski made an attempt to finish the first period but waited until the second period to join a resilient lineup — never backing down.

“It’s unbelievable character by Jonny,” said Judd Peterson, who scored the overtime goal for St. Cloud State. “It almost gives us an extra push to keep fighting, to see what a guy like him is battling through, especially in the playoffs.

“Obviously, we need Jonny. When it comes to this time of the year, you’ve just got to play for the guy next to you and that’s what Jonny did tonight. Credit to him for coming out and playing and tying the game. It gives us a little extra energy.”

Brodzinski has posted 20-plus goals in each of his three seasons with the Huskies, and the impact he has on his teammates was evident Friday night at Scheels Arena.

“Just between the period, I think they thought, ‘What do we do now?’” Motzko said. “Because he means so much to our team, and I think in the third period when Jonny raised his game, our team started to raise their game.”

A capable lineup took the challenge in stride, fighting back against a Michigan Tech team that ended with a 38-21 shot advantage.

While Brodzinski’s rebound proved crucial to St. Cloud’s lineup, there is still concern of how he will handle the remainder of the West Regional.

“I thought during the third period, he was outstanding,” Motzko said. “He raised it to a whole new level, which Jonny has been doing the second half. He gutted it out. Obviously, we’re a little concerned tomorrow.”

With atmosphere lacking, Minnesota-Duluth turns promising rivalry game into a rout

150327 18330438 With atmosphere lacking, Minnesota Duluth turns promising rivalry game into a rout

Justin Crandall and Minnesota-Duluth put Minnesota in the rear-view mirror quickly (photo: Melissa Wade).

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Beauty and the Beast came to the Northeast Regional.

The early game was a beauty. Boston University and Yale battled into overtime, neither team ever holding more than a one-goal lead. BU, the top seed, scored on a goal set up by Jack Eichel, college hockey’s most exciting player, to advance to Saturday’s regional final.

While the stands were anything but full — the announced attendance was 5,123 in a building seating 10,103, no doubt reflecting the weekday 2 p.m. starting time — there was still an energy level befitting two somewhat local teams.

Then came the late game.

It held the promise of two strong teams with proud traditions, Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth, in-state rivals, no less. Minnesota ranked as the fifth-best offense in the country, presumably a treat to watch even for locals who don’t know Eden Prairie from Ham Lake.

And for a while it lived up to that promise. The Minnesota Gophers came out flying in the first 10 minutes, but couldn’t capitalize on their chances.

Then, in the span of just six minutes, Minnesota-Duluth scored three goals, rocking the Big Ten champions. After Duluth pounded the final nail in the coffin midway through the second period to make it 4-0, not even Bela Lugosi could breathe life into the contest.

The game had become The Beast.

Fans from the early game who’d stuck around for a while to see the two teams from Minnesota left in droves, leaving behind what felt more like 512 fans than 5,123.

Playing a big rival in what felt like a mausoleum was something Minnesota-Duluth coach Scott Sandelin had anticipated.

“We talked about it a little bit,” he said. “We were hoping that some of the fans would stick around and not leave early, but some wore brown seats. It happens.”

The two rivals had kicked off the season at the Ice Breaker Tournament in an even more empty building in South Bend, Ind., and Minnesota had also endured a dead environment in the Big Ten tournament in Detroit.

“It is what is,” Sandelin said. “It was still fun. Once we got going, we got the energy from our bench.

“We didn’t need the crowd. Obviously, there wasn’t any.”

Sandelin quickly amended his words: “There were Bulldog fans, but not many of them. But we really didn’t need that.”

In truth, the Gophers were a no-show after the opening 10 minutes. Or perhaps more accurately, the Bulldogs turned them into a no-show. It was shocking even though Duluth had defeated the Gophers in all three matches since the Ice Breaker.

“We were emotionally flat at times tonight,” Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. “We basically had zero time in the offensive zone in the back half of the first and the second.

“I felt bad for the kids that they didn’t play their A game tonight.”

To their credit, none of the Gophers players or coaches blamed the lack of atmosphere on their poor performance, even though they’ve become accustomed to playing before energetic, packed houses on most nights.

“We got our first test of that in Detroit [at the Big Ten tournament], and we were fine with it,” Vinni Lettieri said. “There were more fans here than in Detroit.

“It wasn’t much of an impact for us. We just didn’t step it up ourselves. The crowd shouldn’t be our momentum. We should be able to self-motivate.”

No doubt, the Minnesota-Duluth fans in attendance were delighted to see their Bulldogs advance in any fashion, no matter how sleep-inducing the second half might have been. For fans of a team, a win in the NCAA tournament is like the proverbial face that only a mother could love.

And to Bulldogs fans, this one was a cutie, deserving of magazine covers.

For everyone else, however, this became a game that as it dragged on, desperately needed to be put out of its misery, a game whose last-half pinnacle was the video replay of an empty-net goal (disallowed due to a hand pass).

Fortunately for Minnesota-Duluth players and fans, they won’t be playing in a mausoleum Saturday. They’ll be taking on Boston University, little more than an hour’s drive away, and the game will be played on a weekend so fan turnout should be strong.

The Bulldogs will be facing negative energy from the crowd, but that beats ennui any day.

And if, by chance, they can force a second straight no-show out of their opponent, they’ll happily march on to the Frozen Four.

“Tomorrow will be fun,” Sandelin said.

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