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COLLEGE HOCKEY REPORT:
The Terrific Twelve
by James Clippinger, College Hockey Correspondent
This past Sunday, journalistic integrity caused me to have to get up at the ungodly hour of 12:30PM to watch the NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championship Tournament brackets be revealed live on ESPN2. They even talked to the coaches of the top four seeded teams, with three of the coaches in their respective locker rooms and BU's Jack Parker at a Boston tavern. Hey, at least he waited until the afternoon...it was Sunday, after all.
In case you sleep to a more reasonable hour, here are the brackets for the 12-team draw:
Friday, March 27
Saturday, March 28
Sunday, March 29
Thursday, April 2
Saturday, April 4
Frequently Asked Questions About the NCAA Tournament
When the hell did Princeton and Yale become western teams and Wisconsin and Colorado College become eastern teams? Should someone send a US map to the mostly Canadian-born members of the selection committee?
Well, in order to make life more difficult for low seeds, the NCAA sends each region's two low seeds to the other region. This rule isn't always followed, since host teams are never sent away and sometimes there are more teams in the tourny from one region than the other, but it worked this time.
Why are the first and quarterfinal rounds at such whacked-out times?
It's progress! For the first time ever, the early-round games will be broadcast on pay-per-view, just like the Olympic Triplecast and Wrestlemania CCXXI. Thus, they needed to be staggered such that those who plunk down $30 to see all eight games can actually see all eight games.
Everyone else seems to belong based on performance this season, but how did Princeton make it in?
The Tigers did the damn-neigh impossible in the ECAC tournament and won the whole shebang from the lucky seven seed. They beat Brown in three games, whumped defending playoff champ Cornell in the play-in, edged regular season champ Yale in the semis, and won the finals as Syl Apps III, grandson of Maple Leafs great and Hockey Hall of Famer Syl Apps, scored 48 seconds into the second OT to beat Clarkson. By playing six games in nine nights and winning the last four, Princeton won an automatic invitation to its first-ever NCAA tourny. Considering Princeton's long and proud hockey history (Can you say "Hobey Baker"? How about "Ned Braden"?), the invite is long overdue.
Can I get tickets to these games?
The Frozen Four at the FleetCenter in Boston has been sold out for months, and if both BU and BC make it there look for hype in Beantown to reach new heights. The two rivals can't meet until the finals, and that would be a final for the ages.
At last report, there were still tickets left at the Yost Arena in Ann Arbor and the Knickerbocker (now Pepsi, but I still call Candlestick Candlestick) Arena in scenic Albany. If I wasn't going to be on an eight-hour flight on a little-known Spanish airline that weekend, I'd offer to show people the highlights of the Albany region...the gourmet cooking of Troy's best restaurant, the Friendly's on Hoosick Street...the falling marble slabs of the Empire State Plaza...Schenectedy's famed industrial wasteland...the list just goes on and on!
Michigan State, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Boston College will make the Frozen Four. This sets up a whizzer pair of semifinals. BC has the most balanced attack in the country and the home-ice advantage, but it would have its hands full with the Spartans' strong defense and all-everything senior netminder Chad Alban. NoDak and Wisconsin would be a rematch of the WCHA finals that saw the Badgers win 3-2, but the Sioux won the NCAA title last year. They've been there, done that and had rings made to commemorate it, and you can't beat experience, or WCHA Player of the Year Curtis Murphy and rookie goalie sensation Karl Goehring for that matter.
So I'll have to pick a BC/NoDak final, with BC winning it through some fluke of fate...the Sioux are a better team, but BC has momentum, the home crowd, and something to prove.
* The Decathlon Club has released the names of the ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, college hockey's Heisman:
Chad Alban, Sr. G Michigan State University Dan Boyle, Sr. D Miami University Chris Drury, Sr. F Boston University Ray Giroux, Sr. D Yale University Eric Healey, Sr. F Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Jason Krog, Jr. F University of New Hampshire Mark Mowers, Sr. F University of New Hampshire Bill Muckalt, Sr. F University of Michigan Curtis Murphy, Sr. D University of North Dakota Mike York, Jr. F Michigan State University
The award will be presented to the winner on April 3rd in Boston. Chris Drury has been the favorite all season, but Alban, Muckalt and Murphy all have a legitimate shot at the prize. Krog was a strong contender before UNH came up lame in the stretch run, and York and Giroux could still have an outside shot if the lack of a clear winner leads to voting irregularities.
* Middlebury won their fourth consecutive NCAA Division III national title last weekend. Wisconsin-Stevens Point at least made a game of it by losing 2-1. This begs the question...why don't the Panthers move up to Division I? The ECAC could get rid of Vermont (who are always threatening to jump to Hockey East anyway) and, judging from Union's experience, the jump wouldn't be too difficult.
* Alabama-Huntsville won their second NCAA Division II title in three years over Bemidji State by taking a two-game series 2-0. The NCAA doesn't count games played in Alaska towards team's 34-game limit, which has greatly helped the development of college hockey in the far north. Maybe should a similar exemption exist to encourage southern Division I programs?
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