Sunday, March 27, 2011

NCAA Men's Hockey Championship: Sunday's Second-Round Games

Okay, so titling these games first and second rounds is a little tricky because the rounds have actually been split between days this weekend, but after today, it will be crystal clear, because we'll be able to officially call the next round the semi-finals, and, well, there'll only be four schools left. But that's what I've been doing, so, courses, mid-stream, etc. This tournament has been exciting to follow, even though my poor man's basic-cable package, and my non-supportive Internet provider have afforded me the opportunity to watch precisely zero games, and to listen to just as many. Being a hockey fan, I'm used to being in the red-headed stepchild sports class, but I've realized now that following college hockey is probably akin to being a double minority.

But that's cool. I've enjoyed it, and maybe next year, Daddy will've gotten a raise that affords him a broader cable package that includes ESPNU. Maybe.

Before we talk about today's matchups, it should be noted that, so far, this tournament has not been devoid of upsets. On Friday, defending champion Boston College got embarrassed by Colorado College, but on Saturday, it was the Tigers who tasted defeat, as they fell 2-1 to the Michigan Wolverines.

The big upset of the day, however, was number-one seed Yale getting downed by Minnesota-Duluth, courtesy of a 5-3 margin. So, as games get underway today, three of the top four seeds have been sent packing; only number-two North Dakota remains. The temptation -- not at all based just on seed -- is to say that the Fighting Sioux is the favorite to take home the hardware. I mean, they appear to be the most dominant club.

In a stalwart effort to defend their title, Boston College went 30-7-1 on the season, but they also went somewhere else yesterday: home. North Dakota's 31-8-3 record is, for my money, the most impressive record of the 16 berths, even though they lost one more, tied two more than B.C. But they also handled their assignment Saturday, even if it was Rensselaer.

Speaking of the Fighting Sioux, though, their game is the first on the Sunday slate, a 4:30 pm Central start against the Denver University Pioneers. Now Denver fended off Western Michigan yesterday, but they were down two goals early, and needed two overtime periods to get the win against a team over whom they were favored. At least I think they were. Nevertheless, it's Denver/North Dakota up in Green Bay, WI. Peep it on ESPNU HD or have yourself a listen on

For my money, however, the game of the weekend is our second dose of home-field advantage, and that would be the 7 pm start up in Manchester, NH between the University of New Hampshire Wildcats and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

Yes, that's right, the Irish held off Merrimack, but in fashion similar to Denver's victory. They fell behind 2-1 early on, and then were down 3-2 in the third, managed an equalizing tally late in the game, then helped themselves to a game-winning goal in overtime. This, of course, ruled. So, the Wildcats and the Irish will get after it to close out the weekend of college hockey.

Action will resume Thursday in St. Paul, MN. It'll be the winner of Notre Dame/New Hampshire taking on Minnesota-Duluth, and the other contest will pit the winner of Denver/North Dakota against those bastard Wolverines from Michigan.

Let's go Irish!