In which we recap the day's events in the NCAA tournament.
Things should've been easy for UNH.
The Wildcats scored six goals against the best defensive team in the nation on Friday and were playing an underdog RIT team that leaned heavily on goalie Jared DiMichiel to improbably edge No. 2 Denver. But for UNH, in the NCAA tournament, nothing is every easy.
On Saturday, UNH mailed in a dreadful performance and lost to the Tigers, 6-2, thanks to a meltdown in the middle period that saw the Tigers score three goals in 94 seconds and cost the Wildcats a trip to the Frozen Four.
RIT gave up just one goal on 40 shots against Denver, and UNH never approached making them reproduce the feat. The Wildcats were clueless as to how to break through the Tigers' defenses thanks to a strong effort from the entire team that robbed them of their dominant play through the middle of the ice.
RIT opened the scoring at 14:10 of the first period, and UNH answered less than five minutes later, but it was clear that RIT had held sway in the opening 20 minutes, if not on the scoresheet and shot chart (shots were 8-7 in the Wildcats' favor) then certainly on the ice.
The second period was UNH's Waterloo, or, perhaps more appropriately, Little Big Horn. It once again suffered through the kind of complete and total collapse in the NCAA tournament for which it has become so infamous. It may not be fair to mock UNH with taunts of "University of No Hardware," as RIT's fans did prior to the game - after all, Dick Umile's teams have piles of conference trophies back home in Durham - but any ridiculing about their NCAA performance is, once again, well-earned.
The middle frame was all RIT, though how much of that is the result of hard work on the Tigers' part, and how much UNH lazily playing out a game it felt entitled to win is tough to quantify. Every race and battle for a 50-50 puck went in RIT's favor, and UNH just stood around watching.
As it had so many times this year, UNH kept looking to Bobby Butler to make something happen, but Butler was loath to oblige. Where he dictated the pace and did as he pleased against Cornell, he let the game happen around him and did a lot of standing still against the Tigers. He was held off the scoresheet for the 18th time in 39 games, and last night UNH dropped to 6-8-4 in those contests. He finished the night, and his college career with a whisper, putting just three shots on net and finishing a minus-2.
The Wildcats finally paid for their ineffectual play at 13:23 of the second period. Then again at 13:36. And once more at 14:57. Tyler Brenner broke the 1-all deadlock, Brent Alexin caught UNH thinking about the last goal just 13 seconds later, and Stevan Matic put UNH out of its misery 1:21 after that. Even after that, and Umile used his timeout, UNH was still flat and disorganized, taking a too many men penalty before the period ended. Final shots in the period were 18-6 RIT.
A bad UNH giveaway halfway through the third led to the fifth goal, Brenner's second of the night. Blake Kessel pulled the Wildcats back within one before allowing a gratuitous empty-net goal 35 seconds later.
RIT obviously earned its trip to Detroit by knocking off the regular-season champions from the two best top-to-bottom conferences in the country. But UNH sure made things easy for the Tigers.
WISCONSIN 5, ST. CLOUD 3 (WISCONSIN ADVANCES TO FROZEN FOUR)
This was a wild game. There were 13 total power plays, and no power play goals (there was, however, a shortie). There were four goals that came within two minutes of another one. There were also four different two-goal leads for the Badgers, who just couldn't completely close the door on the pesky Huskies. The problem for St. Cloud was that starting goalie Mike Lee, who's gotten yanked in every important game he's ever played, gave up three goals on the first 11 Wisconsin shots and, inevitably, got yanked.
YALE 3, NORTH DAKOTA 2
Recognize the name Ryan Rondeau? Probably not. He only played four games this year and hasn't gotten a second of playing time since October. But he made 34 saves, and Denny Kearney scored twice, to upset the Fighting Sioux. But the Bulldogs led 3-0 and gave up two unassisted goals in 2:59 early in the third to make things a little nervier than they might have liked. North Dakota also hit the post on a penalty shot.
BOSTON COLLEGE 3, ALASKA 1
Matt Lombardi is earning a reputation as a big-game player. Last week he had a hat trick, including the overtime game-winner, to help BC win the Hockey East title over Maine. Last night he had a beautiful shorthanded goal to open the scoring for the Eagles in their first-round win. Four goals in BC's two biggest games of the year, and he had three in the season's previous 37. Pat Mullane scored the game-winner, and John Muse made 28 saves.
MIAMI 2, ALABAMA-HUNTSVILLE 1
The RedHawks allowed things to be far more interesting than they had any right to be. Shots were 38-17. Miami had nine power plays, and only scored on two of them. Huntsville got a goal back with the extra attacker and 39 seconds remaining in the game. A 2-1 game might look close, but looks can be deceiving.
MICHIGAN 5, BEMIDJI STATE 1
Early in the third period this game was 2-1, but Michigan scored three goals on 10 shots after that to make the game a runaway thanks in large part to Carl Hagelin. He had two of those third-period goals, one of which was shorthanded, and assisted on the third. Shawn Hunwick kept up his ridiculous play, making 26 saves and improving to 8-2-0 on the season.
1. Blake Geoffrion, Wisconsin
Geoffrion was dominant for the Badgers, and the main reason they were able to keep the persistent Huskies at an arm's length. He scored the goal that made it 2-0, set up the goal that made it 3-1, then assisted on the empty-net goal that gave Wisconsin its final breathing room and a sure trip to Detroit. Geoffrion finished the weekend with two goals and five points.
2. Tyler Brenner, RIT
His first goal gave the Tigers a lead they never surrendered, and sparked their clamorous second-period outburst. His second goal dashed all hope of a UNH comeback, extending RIT's lead to 5-1 and solidifying its first-ever trip to the Frozen Four.
3. Ryan Rondeau, Yale
Many had to wonder what Yale coach Keith Allain was thinking. Rondeau, a junior, had only played 638:47 in his career, with a GAA of 3.48 and a save percentage of .868. Seeing his first action since Halloween, Rondeau got the start against North Dakota. He made the most of the opportunity, making 34 saves and lucked into a missed penalty shot to lift his Bulldogs to their first NCAA win since the ‘50s, and second ever.
Boston College vs. Yale, Worcester, Mass., 5:30 p.m.
Michigan vs. Miami, Fort Wayne, Ind., 8 p.m.
Both games are on ESPNU.