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Hockey East saw two of its three teams in the NCAA Tournament in action on the tourney’s opening night with mixed results. New Hampshire, playing in an evening contest, got off to a slow start, trailing 1-0 with three minutes to go in the second period to Cornell and their goalie, Ben Scrivens. Scrivens had not allowed a goal in three games and only one in their four ECAC playoff games as the Big Red won the league title.
However, UNH came to life at the end of the second with a goal from Hobey finalist Bobby Butler that went through the side of the net. Mike Sislo scored 26 seconds later to change the complexion of the game entirely, giving UNH an edge they would never cede. Cornell went from a team content to nurse a 1-0 lead and let Scrivens carry them to a scurrying team that just could not organize itself, especially on offense. This was best evidenced in Butler’s second goal, in the third period, which put UNH up 4-1 and really iced the game. Cornell attempted to take the puck out of the zone, but just lost it and Butler emerged with the puck, going the other way, and beat Scrivens one-on-one.
Just to show that it was not Cornell’s day, Butler was on the ice to go for the hat trick while Cornell pulled the goalie for the extra attacker. Paul Thompson got the puck on the left side with what looked like a sure goal, but dished it over to Butler, on the right side in traffic. Instead, Cornell broke up the pass, but in doing so, directed the puck right into the net, crediting the goal to Thompson. Butler, Thompson, and Sislo each recorded two goals. Brian Foster recorded 24 saves in the win.
Upsets are becoming the norm in the NCAA Hockey Tournament. Last season, three of the four number four seeds beat number ones in the first round and comprised half of the Frozen Four. UNH pulled a minor upset as a three seed beating a two. However, a four seed won earlier in the day in this very region. The fourth seed RIT Tigers beat the region’s top seed Denver 2-1. This was a pretty big upset as it was the tournament’s overall 15 downing the overall number two, a pretty rare feat in the basketball world. UNH will don the home whites as they take on RIT Saturday.
The Catamounts got a late start to their tournament because second seeded St. Cloud and third seeded Northern Michigan had to go into the second overtime to decide a winner in the early game in the West Region. St. Cloud scored 23 seconds into the fifth frame to advance with the 4-3 win.
Vermont fell behind early to Wisconsin, but tied the game on a flukey goal when Badger goalie Scott Gudmandson corralled a puck underneath him, but his own defenseman came in and pushed them and the puck across the net. The Catamounts actually mounted a 2-1 lead, but could not hold off the potent Badgers. Wisconsin, owners of the nation’s top power play, flexed their muscle over Vermont. They scored on their first three tries with the extra attacker and Vermont could never answer the score.
Wisconsin dominated the second period with a shot advantage of 16-3 and very physical play. Vermont could not respond, except with sloppy play and played with a man down numerous times. The 2-1 edge after one definitely woke up Wisconsin and they will take on St. Cloud on Saturday. Sophomore goalie Rob Madore did play well in the loss recording 39 saves.
Northeast top seed Boston College opens up their tournament against Alaska in the early game on Saturday. North Dakota takes on Yale in the region’s two-three game. In the Midwest, overall number one Miami takes on Alabama-Huntsville and second seed Bemidji State battled Michigan.