Monday, March 12, 2012

On to the Conference Semifinals

No less than 10 of the 22 series in the five NCAA Division I men's leagues went to a deciding third game on Sunday, with a few upsets tossed in for good measure.

Atlantic Hockey saw Mercyhurst top Holy Cross in three games, while RIT survived on Saturday night with a 5-4 double overtime win over Bentley thanks to a sudden-death goal by Cameron Burt. The Tigers then posted a 3-0 shutout on Sunday behind Shane Madolora's 24 saves. Niagara swept Robert Morris, while Air Force edged UConn, 4-3, in a tie-breaking game on Sunday on a third-period tally by George Michalke. The AFA Falcons will now take on Mercyhurst in one semifinal, while the other will pit RIT against Niagara, with both games slated for Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY.

In the CCHA, it was last-place Bowling Green upsetting league regular-season king Ferris State in three games, one round after upending favored Northern Michigan for the second straight season. The Falcons, who finished in 11th place during the campaign, won by a 4-3 count on Sunday on Dan DeSalvo's OT marker, and advance to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit to face Michigan, which ousted Notre Dame in two games. Miami swept Michigan State, allowing just one goal in two contests, and will face-off with Western Michigan, which knocked out Lake Superior State in another sweep.

The top four seeds all survived in the ECAC. Harvard finished in third place after playing to 11 ties this season, and then finished off Yale with an 8-2 shellacking in Game Three in Cambridge to advance to the ECAC Championships in Atlantic City along with Union, Cornell and Colgate. Union swept RPI, while Cornell did likewise to Dartmouth, and Colgate came back from a one-game deficit to defeat Quinnipiac, 4-0, in the deciding meeting as Eric Mihalik posted a 31-save shutout. Union will now meet Colgate, while Cornell will line up against Harvard, on Friday on the Boardwalk.

Hockey East saw Providence repeat its winning effort from Game One on Thursday with a 1-0 win over higher-seeded host UMass Lowell on Sunday, as Alex Beaudry made 29 saves for the Friars and Ross Mauermann scored the game's only goal. PC now advances to the league semifinals at TD Garden for the first time since 2001, where it will again face top-seeded Boston College, which outlasted Massachusetts in a pair of games. Maine outlasted Merrimack, 2-1, in both the series and in Game Three, while Maine's semifinal opponent, Boston University, edged New Hampshire, 5-4, in double OT on a Wade Megan goal in the deciding contest. Kieran Millan finished with 68 saves for the win in his final home game for the Terriers. The opposing Wildcats, who had won the opener in five periods of play on Friday at BU, will not make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001.

Top-seeded Minnesota swept Alaska Anchorage and is off to the WCHA Championships at the Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, while Michigan Tech surprised Colorado College with its own sweep. Three of the other four series were also two-step sweeps, with North Dakota ousting Bemidji State, St. Cloud State eliminating Nebraska-Omaha, and defending NCAA champion Minnesota-Duluth putting away Minnesota State. Wisconsin and Denver went to a deciding game in Colorado on Sunday, and the host Pioneers came out on top by a 3-2 score as Luke Salazar connected early in OT. Denver and Michigan Tech will vie on Thursday for the right to face Minnesota-Duluth, while North Dakota and St. Cloud will square off to see who takes on Minnesota.

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