While most college sports fanatics had their televisions tuned to the NCAA men’s or women’s basketball tournament this past weekend, another brand of madness was sweeping the nation. The Division I men’s ice hockey tournament had begun with regional semifinal and final games that narrow down 16 teams to the final four, which will head to Tampa Bay, Fla., to compete in the Frozen Four.No. 4 Cornell (19-9-7, 12-4-6 ECAC Hockey) downed No. 1-ranked Michigan (24-13-4, 15-9-4 CCHA Hockey) in the Midwest regional, 3-2, with an overtime winner by sophomore forward Roger Craig; however, the Red’s trip to Tampa Bay was stolen by Ferris State (18-16-5, 12-12-4 CCHA) on Saturday night in a 2-1 loss.In the program’s 19th trip to the NCAA tournament, the Red progressed just as far as its last appearance in 2009, when the squad fell to Bemidji State, 4-1, in the regional final. Few students remain on campus that were here for the Red’s 2006 heartbreaking 1-0 overtime loss in the NCAA regional final game to Wisconsin, in what the press conference mediator described as, “one of the most epic games in NCAA tournament history.”In Friday’s game, Michigan did not hesitate in making a scoreboard appearance. Just 1:11 into the game, star forward A.J. Trealis picked up a rebound off sophomore goaltender Andy Iles from Luck Glendening’s shot. Iles managed to make a second save, but not the third as Glendening picked up the second rebound and sent it past Iles’ skate, giving the Wolverines an initial lead.Just 22 seconds later, the Red’s hole appeared to get much deeper as Luke Moffatt beat a Cornell defender near the boards and made a move on Iles in the crease. Again, Iles made the save, but he was unable to stop Kevin Lynch, who stuffed in the rebound at the back post. Schafer stared at the referee for a minute, waiting to see if the play would be reviewed before eventually calling a timeout to regroup his squad. “With three commercial breaks per period, you don’t want to be using your time-out so early,” Schafer said.The referees reviewed the play during the minute recess and ruled it no goal, no penalty due to goaltender interference by Moffatt at 1:33, keeping the Red within striking distance. “I felt confident out there. Maybe the first two shots went in but I wasn’t going to let that deteriorate my play,” Iles said. “The guys did great at responding and luckily the ref reviewed it. I didn’t even realize he was going to review it to be honest.”Next, freshman forward John McCarron came up huge with an equalizer for Cornell at the 10:10 mark. His rocket of a slapshot from the boards clinked off the left side of the far post and sailed in. “Getting that goal called back and getting that nice goal at the end of the first by John McCarron sent us into the intermission feeling pretty confident,” said senior center and alternate captain Sean Collins.Just 40 seconds into the second period, Collins send a backhanded saucer pass through traffic to freshman defender Joakim Ryan for the Red’s second goal, lifting the team above the Wolverines, 2-1. Michigan had several good chances, as the blue and yellow kept trying to walk it in on the goal line and bank it off Iles, though the Wolverines were unable to break through. Then, with 2:27 left in the second frame, senior forward Locke Jilson drew a penalty shot, but was unable convert it to a goal, as he aimed for senior Shawn Hunwick’s five hole.Somehow, the Red killed off six penalties in the second. Forward Erik Axell, defender Braden Birch and defender Nick D’Agostino, all juniors, killed off 1:30 of a 5-on-3 to win the period after sophomore Armand De Swardt took a 10-minute misconduct for contact to the head. “Our penalty killers were just unbelievable tonight, especially on that 5-on-3,” Iles said. The Wolverines were not ready to die yet, coming back to tie the contest late in the third period. Lynch, who was denied in the opening period, made up for it with a rebound goal. With 30 seconds left in regulation, a loose puck in the crease almost gave Michigan the game; however, Iles sprawled out to wall off the net with his body.At 3:35 in the overtime period, sophomore forward Roger Craig, who has made a habit of scoring game-winning overtime goals this season, sent the No. 1-seeded Wolverine’s packing. Junior center Greg Miller released a hard shot, which Hunwick spectacularly saved, but Craig was there to deposit some rubber in the back of the net. “It showed the character of our team to come back and for Rodger Craig to get that big winner,” Collins said.Cornell’s following game versus the Ferris State Bulldogs was less spectacular, though it really demonstrated the competitiveness of men’s ice hockey on the national scene. Both teams held each other at bay until the third period, when a flurry of goals decided the outcome.First, Garrett Thomson scored just 11 seconds into the final frame on an FSU power play. Sophomore forward Dustin Mowrey evened the score just over a minute later, but senior forward Jordie Johnston, with a pass from sophomore forwards Andy Huff and Cory Cane, ended the Red’s season. Iles made 19 saves on the night. To score his goal, Mowrey accepted a pass from freshman defender Kirill Gotovets and stepped between two FSU defensemen before stuffing it in senior Taylor Nelson’s five-hole.The Red’s unfortunate end to the season is survived by another bright story in sports. Making headlines in the likes of the New York Times and other national papers is the ECAC’s own Union (26-7-7, 14-4-4 ECAC Hockey), who have qualified for the Frozen Four in its second ever NCAA tournament appearance. Union will play the FSU Bulldogs on April 5 at 4:30 p.m. in a game that will be broadcast by ESPN.
Original Author: Rob Moore