Sunday: Title Game Review

      Here are a couple of other stories on Saturday’s NCAA West Regional title hockey game at Mariucci Arena in Twin Cities newspaper Sunday editions:

Roman Augustoviz, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Minnesota Duluth, the last of three WCHA teams still alive in the NCAA tournament, bowed out on Saturday night with a last gasp but no miracle finish this time.

Miami (Ohio) edged the Bulldogs 2-1 in the West Regional final before an announced crowd of 7,554 at Mariucci Arena, ending UMD’s playoff-winning streak at six.

It appeared that 95 percent of the fans were rooting for the Bulldogs. They had little to cheer about until senior center MacGregor Sharp’s goal with 2 minutes, 5 seconds left brought UMD within one goal.

On Friday, the Bulldogs scored twice in the last 40 seconds of the third period and then beat Princeton 5-4 in overtime in the first round. But UMD could not get a second late goal against Miami freshman goalie Cody Reichard. He stopped 25 of 26 shots.

"We tried to do what we did last night and got halfway there," UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. "[Reichard] played well and I thought he was the difference."

Justin Mercier scored both of Miami’s goals in the second period, one shorthanded, the other on the power play. His 13th and 14th goals of the season enabled the RedHawks (22-12-5) to advance to their first Frozen Four in six NCAA tournament appearances.

This is the first time the WCHA will not have at least one team in the Frozen Four since 1999. Earlier on Saturday, New Hampshire beat North Dakota 6-5 in overtime in the Northeast Regional. Denver fell 4-2 to Miami on Friday in the first round of the West.

The RedHawks, after having one shot in the first period, started hitting UMD players whenever possible in a penalty-filled second period and Mercier provided all the offense they would need.

With the RedHawks shorthanded, the senior left winger scored his first goal on a 2-on-1 rush. He beat UMD goaltender Alex Stalock high on the glove side at 8:42.

Then, with 4 minutes left in the period, Mercier scored on a power play. RedHawks defenseman Chris Wideman took a shot from just inside the blue line and there was Mercier, unmovable near the crease tipping the puck past Stalock.

In between, UMD (22-13-8) had a goal by sophomore forward Justin Fontaine waved off. A shot by Sharp from the right dot hit Fontaine and sneaked underneath Reichard into the net. But after a long review of replays, the officials ruled Fontaine was in the crease and obscuring the goalie’s vision.

"[The puck] did go off the inside of my skate," Fontaine said. "But I did not touch the goalie. I got spun around by a D-man."

Said Sandelin: "Was his foot in? Yeah. "But they were battling for the puck. I can’t say what I want to say. I have to live with it."

Bruce Brothers, St. Paul Pioneer Press

For a minute, it looked as if Minnesota-Duluth’s magical mystery tour might stay alive Saturday night.

Not this time, however.

A last-ditch shot hit traffic in front of the net, and the Bulldogs came up short, losing 2-1 to Miami University in the NCAA West Regional men’s hockey final in front of 7,554 at Mariucci Arena.

The RedHawks, sparked by two goals from tournament most valuable player Justin Mercier, earned a trip to the Frozen Four for the first time.

"Boy, did he ever come to play this weekend," RedHawks coach Enrico Blasi said of Mercier.

So did UMD, which outshot Miami 26-19 but couldn’t repeat the dramatics of Friday night when the Bulldogs scored two goals in the final 40 seconds to force overtime before notching a 5-4 overtime victory over Princeton in the semifinals.

As he did against Princeton, Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker while trailing by two goals, this time with 3:35 left in the third.

"You’ve got to go for it," he said.

When the Bulldogs’ MacGregor Sharp hammered in a puck that popped into the crease to make it 2-1 with 2:05 remaining, things looked hopeful for UMD.

But Miami had other ideas.

"We didn’t want to fall victim to the same thing as Princeton," Mercier said.

It ended the season for UMD (22-13-8), which ended Minnesota’s season a week ago during the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul.

The RedHawks took awhile to get untracked and were unable to get a shot on goal until 3:40 remained in the first period.

But they capitalized on a great play by Mercier while killing a penalty 8 1/2 minutes into the second period to snap a scoreless tie. Mercier knocked the puck loose in the neutral zone, skated in on the right and whistled a short-handed shot past goaltender Alex Stalock’s glove side to make it 1-0 after 8:48.

UMD appeared to tie the score two minutes later, but a power-play shot by MacGregor Sharp that ended up going under Miami goalie Cody Reichard was disallowed because UMD’s Justin Fontaine had his right skate in the crease in front of Reichard.

"It was close," Reichard said.

Sandelin said, "I can’t say what I really want to say, but they made the call and you’ve got to live with it."

The Bulldogs’ power play had a golden opportunity to tie the score when the RedHawks took three penalties in less than two minutes, giving UMD a five-on-three edge in skaters for two full minutes, but Reichard was there to thwart every shot.

Then Miami went on a power play and boom, it was 2-0. Mercier, standing in front of Stalock, deflected in a point shot by Chris Wideman for a two-goal lead at the 16:00 mark.

UMD had many other chances, including a first-period blast off the post by Fontaine, and they applied heavy pressure again at the end.

"We thought we could do it again," Fontaine said, "but it just wasn’t for us tonight."

One thought on “Sunday: Title Game Review

  1. well the Dogs had a great run and I enjoyed every minute of it. Thanks Guys for a great ending to the season. You should be proud and hold your heads high. GO DOGS!!

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