Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Hockey Notes and Thoughts: UMD Survives, Advances, Must Start Better

WORCESTER, Mass. -- For the ninth time this year, UMD allowed the first goal in a game and won anyway.

In this case, the timing was pretty good.

After falling behind 2-0, UMD used a huge power play goal and a funky bounce to gain momentum, and then never looked back, beating Maine 5-2 in the Northeast Regional semifinals Saturday night.

Maine took a 2-0 lead on a very strange play that I'll explain in just a little bit, and watching the ESPNU replay of the game Saturday night/Sunday morning, it looks as if UMD was able to regroup while the officials tried to sort out what the hell happened on that particular play. The Bulldogs came out with some jump immediately after play resumed, eventually getting a power play chance 2:44 later on when JT Brown was chopped to the ice while he skated across the slot.

Less than a minute into the power play, Jack Connolly scored on a wrist shot to get UMD on the board, and the comeback was on.

"They got on the power play and they buried," Maine defenseman Will O'Neill said. "They got some momentum to make it 2-1. Then it was a one-goal game, and there was no quit in our guys too. We still thought we had control of the game because we were playing well."

Every shift after Maine's second goal, it seemed UMD got better. It was not totally out of nowhere, but it also was in a way, because turning points are rarely obvious when you're viewing the game live. You often have to think back for them.

"But the guys have shown that kind of resiliency all year," UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. "The latter part of the year here where we’ve dug ourselves a hole and come back in games is when we’ve been able to come back and get the lead."

Later in the second period, UMD began to forecheck much more effectively. The reward came on one of the more bizarre goals anyone will ever see. Caleb Herbert stole a puck near the Maine blue line and skated in all alone. His shot missed the net, bounced high off the glass behind the goal, and caromed back over the top of the net. The puck then hit Maine goalie Dan Sullivan in the back of the right leg (in the calf, it appeared) and went over the goal line before anyone knew what happened.

"I thought I had the goalie beat on the right side there and ended up missing the net," Herbert said, "but we’ve been working on it in practice you know where you bank it off the wall and it comes back over. I had that going for me and it ended up going in."

(Reporters love when people make jokes in press conferences, by the way. They ate that one up.)

(Great tweet from UMD freshman Adam Krause, by the way, who referred to Herbert's shot as a "bank off the nacho stand.")

From there, it was alllllll UMD.

"I thought we pressured the puck a little bit better in the second period and even the third," Sandelin said. "But we didn’t get caught as much on the wrong side of the puck and we had numbers back, so I thought our guys played a real smart period, which helped them not get a whole lot going."

"They were playing solid defensively," said Maine star Spencer Abbott, who returned from a concussion and scored a power-play goal, but was almost a complete non-factor five-on-five. "Our line had trouble getting the puck in their end. My hats off to them. They just did a great job defensively. They were all over us, especially on the power play."

UMD got the winner from Jake Hendrickson in the second, a rebound off a Brady Lamb steal and shot. The Bulldogs smothered Maine in the third. JT Brown and Hendrickson added goals, UMD held Maine to three shots on goal, and the Bulldogs had the win.

Now comes another huge challenge in the No. 1 overall seed, Boston College.

"The good thing, while we were watching Maine they were playing BC so that helped a little bit," Sandelin said. "But . . . I thought the game we watched in the Hockey East final they were good. They’ve got great depth, they’ve got some big players, some big skilled players, and I thought they smother you. They really play the game up and down the rink."

Maine coach Tim Whitehead expects a super game Sunday night.

"Yeah it will be a great game. I mean we were really hoping to get an opportunity to play BC again. They’re such a great team you know we have so much respect for them coming out of our conference. And so I think it will be a great hockey game. You’ve got two strong teams that have a lot of confidence and have earned that confidence and I just think that it will be a great hockey game."

Hopefully, there's a little bit more flow than the games Saturday had. I expect Boston College to be able to use a bit more of its speed and skill than Air Force allowed it to. That should make for a fantastic contest, with a Frozen Four bid on the line.


I keep getting questions about it, and since I'm here to help, here is the (final?) explanation on why Maine's second goal -- scored by Mark Mangene -- was indeed allowed to stand, and why it should have been.

Here's what happened: UMD forward Caleb Herbert lost an edge and crashed into the Maine goal while trying to forecheck. Play was allowed to continue as the Black Bears rushed up the rink. UMD stopped playing, almost unanimously. Mangene took a feed from Mike Cornell, skated in, and beat Reiter with a backhand shot.

It took me a while to find the right rule, but the NCAA did later issue a statement on the play, citing the rule I told everyone about on the radio:

6-10-c. A player, including the goalkeeper, shall not delay the game by deliberately displacing a goal post from its normal position. The referee shall stop play when a goal post has been displaced.

Note: If the non-offending team has an offensive opportunity and its defensive goal cage has been displaced, play shall be allowed to continue until the scoring chance is complete.

Simply put, UMD has to keep playing. No excuse for stopping the way the Bulldogs did there.

"It's a good lesson for your team," Sandelin said. "That's a good reason why you never quit playing on anything.

"I think it might have been different had it not happened earlier in the game, and they blew it."

Sandelin was referring to a play in the opening minute of the second period, where Brian Flynn of Maine ran into the UMD net while trying to go around on a forecheck. UMD was denied a scoring chance opportunity to dump the puck down the rink while short-handed. A different play, but certainly you can understand a bit why there might have been confusion on the UMD side.

It still was irritating to see so many guys in white just give up on the play. Yes, they are assuming a whistle, but in reality, it's no different than when you see a puck graze the netting above the glass on the ends. Sometimes, the officials miss it, even if the players see it. I've seen instances where teams have stopped playing because the players saw the puck hit the net, and since there was no whistle, those players paid a price. That's why everyone bangs into your head as a player to go until you hear a whistle.

You assume nothing.

Tough play to have go against you, but it was nice to see UMD rally from it in the end.


Two first-time entrants punched their tickets to the NCAA Frozen Four Saturday. In the East Regional, Union topped UMass-Lowell 4-2, and the Dutchmen found out later Saturday they will play another first-time Frozen Four entrant, Ferris State. The Bulldogs beat Cornell 2-1 for the Midwest Regional title in Green Bay.

The Frozen Four is April 5 and 7 in Tampa. Presumably, Union and Ferris State will be the early semifinal, to be followed by the winners of Sunday's regional finals. The UMD-Boston College winner will play the West Regional champion, which will be either North Dakota or Minnesota.

In those games Saturday, North Dakota held off Western Michigan 3-1. The Team That Shall Not Be Named took a 2-0 lead early in the second, then held off a furious WMU rally. Brock Nelson had two points for North Dakota. Minnesota advanced with a 7-3 whipping of Boston University. The game was tied 2-2 in the second period before Seth Helgeson scored from the high slot to give Minnesota the lead for good.

The announced attendance for Saturday's games in St. Paul was under 10,000, a possibly-shocking fact if you haven't been a regular follower of mine. I've said for months those tickets (close to $100 for the two-day package, which was all you could buy until late this past week) were severely overpriced, especially considering the WCHA Final Five, which also inexplicably did not sell out a single game, also has overpriced tickets.

I know the host committee has to recoup costs to conduct this event in that building, but everyone -- student athletes, fellow fans, broadcasters, and the surrounding area -- would have benefited from a bit more reasonable ticket prices. More people equals more atmosphere, and it's not like you don't have a vibrant group of hockey fans in the area. They were interested, but they were priced out of the event.

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