It took seven tries, but the crowd at Boardwalk Hall finally saw an interesting game.
Last year’s games were decided fairly early- and Friday’s opening games lacked any drama, for the most part.
But Saturday’s championship was a different story, as Union and Harvard stood scoreless entering the final frame.
The Crimson’s top-ranked power play whiffed on all three of their chances in the opening period, and then Harvard didn’t muster a shot on Union goalie Troy Grosenick for the first seventeen minutes of the second.
Union’s aggressive forecheck kept Harvard pinned in their own zone for most of the period, but give credit to sophomore Raphael Girard. The Crimson goalie displayed excellent lateral quickness, sliding across the net to save all 27 shots he saw in the first two periods.
Still, the Dutchmen kept with it, and Daniel Carr’s goal at 9:34 prove to be the game winner. Josh Jooris added an empty-netter to seal it at 19:38.
Union, winner of two straight Cleary Cups, now has the program’s first ECAC Championship, and will be the No. 1 seed at Bridgeport. They’ll look for the program’s first win in the NCAAA Division I tournament Friday at 3 p.m., taking on fourth-seeded Michigan State.
The Dutchmen are playing well in virtually every aspect of the game right now, and should be a formidable opponent this weekend. (Barry Melrose predicts a Union-Boston College final, for whatever that’s worth).
“They have a good blend of special teams and goaltending and they seem to be pretty healthy, which is not that easy to do at this time of year,” Harvard coach Ted Donato said of Union. “We’ll be pulling hard for them and I think they can do some damage.”
Harvard’s 6-1 shelling of the Big Red Friday was just as bad as the score looks. Still, give the Big Red credit, as they were able to execute a quick turnaround and earn an NCAA tournament bid with a 3-0 win over Colgate in the consolation game, a game Cornell head coach Mike Schafer expressed his disdain for following Friday’s loss.
That game wound up being the most important of they season for Cornell, and they answered, although Colgate seemed to struggle getting up for what was ultimately a meaningless game to close their season.
Standout senior Austin Smith was held to a lone assist on the weekend, and the lack of TV coverage coupled with Colgate’s elimination means he won’t get a chance to be seen on the national stage.
What that means for his Hobey Baker candidacy has yet to be seen, but count head coach Don Vaughan in his corner.
“The statistics speak volumes,” Vaughan said of Smith’s nation-best 36 goals. “These aren’t secondary assists. People sometimes lose sight of the fact that the award is more than on-ice talent and I think Austin Smith embodies all of the other qualities that the Hobey Baker Award stands for. Great player, and I hope that the committee gives him consideration because he deserves it.”
Speaking of TV, it really was a shame this weekend wasn’t on the air. Credit to the hard working RPI TV crew who traveled for the weekend. These guys were at the rink hours before each day’s game, and were still there once the place emptied out.
Still, you’d hope the league can hammer something out for next year regarding a broadcast deal. As several coaches said last week in pre-tournament conference call, it’s really a shame the league dropped the ball on this one.
Attendance. I’ve never been to a non-Atlantic City championship, so I can’t speak to the crowds at other locations. But Boardwalk Hall was far from full for all four games this weekend. Brian and I were bombarded with a ton of questions on the live blog about potential tournament locations, although note that there’s still one year left on the deal between the league and Atlantic City. Figures for the day were announced after the conclusion of the second game, with Friday drawing 3,462, and Saturday 4,131.
It seems tough to find a suitable location that combines the best of all worlds, so why not rotate between on-campus sites each year on the current deal expires? That might not be the most ideal situation, but then again, none of the other scenarios are exactly a home run.
Edit: If you missed anything from this weekend, head over to rpitv.org for the archives of all four games.Thanks to Kyle Mackenzie for passing the link along. Also check back this weekend, as I’ll be in Bridgeport for coverage of Friday and Saturday’s games.