NCAA Hockey: How Michigan won the West; Duluth advances

In which we recap the day's events in the NCAA tournament, via Puck Daddy columnist Ryan Lambert.

This time there was no controversy for Michigan, and it would appear as though Colorado College used up all its magic on Friday.

About 24 hours after the Tigers poured eight goals past the defending national champion Boston College Eagles in a jaunty round-of-16 game, they were left wondering what went wrong against Michigan.

On Friday, CC pumped 39 shots on goal in all, scored four shots in the first period, and never looked back. On Saturday, in a game that would have sent them to the Frozen Four in St. Paul, they put 22 shots on net and scored just once.

Maybe that's the percentages balancing out. Maybe Michigan, which was excellent from start to finish and never allowed more than eight shots in a period, is just really good at getting a lead and choking the life out of its opponents. The Wolverines scored just 2:23 into the game on a goal from defenseman Scooter Vaughan and took puck possession far, far more seriously.

While both power plays went just 1-for-7, the Wolverines' looked far, far more lethal and attempted 36 shots on goal in the game. The Tigers may have gotten in front of a lot of them, and a few might have gone wide, but you don't allow that many chances without giving up at least one goal eventually.  So it was no surprise, then, that San Jose Sharks seventh-round pick Lee Moffie doubled his team's lead on the man advantage at 17:33 of the first.

With that having been settled, Michigan took a serious defensive grip on the game, slowly tightening its tentacles around Colorado College's transition.and generally shooting the lights out on poor Joe Howe, who made 41 saves (after making 39 on Friday), a frightening amount of which were of high quality. Through two periods, shots were 33-14, just to give you an idea.

CC made it interesting in the third though, putting eight shots on goal, limiting Michigan to 10, and even scoring late to at least make the dying moments more interesting than they probably should have been.

Not surprisingly, it was once again the Schwartz Brothers, Rylan and St. Louis Blues pick Jaden, combining to draw the Tigers within one. But a high sticking penalty on Mike Boivin 47 seconds later derailed what could have been a fruitful comeback attempt and allowed CC just 45 seconds of time with the extra attacker, during which the Schwartz line still put three shots on net.

The Tigers have nothing to be ashamed of or anything, especially given it was a 14 seed in the tournament. It's really too bad about the, too, because the battle CC put up at the end was nothing short of impressive.

But the letdown after the shocking win over BC was probably to be expected. CC coach Scott Owens said after Friday that the team has relied heavily on its special teams in recent weeks.

And when your admitted strength is one in which you are outperformed in the most important game of the year — especially if one line does about half of your scoring in a weekend — that's not likely to end in joyous celebration and a trip to St. Paul.
Three stars

1. Jason Zucker, Denver

Just to start preparing you now, it's going to be an All-WCHA Three Stars. Zucker kinda earned his, though. Trailing 2-0 to Western Michigan, the 2010 Minnesota Wild second rounder earned the primary assist on a power play goal from Kyle Ostrow at 15:31 of the third, then set up New York Islanders draftee Matt Donovan less than two minutes later to force extra frames. Then when an extra 20 minutes couldn't decide it, Zucker scored the game-winner himself at 11:14 of double overtime.

It's a good thing ESPNU didn't air this one nationally or I would have really enjoyed watching it, I bet.

2. Brad Malone, North Dakota

Between NoDak and Minnesota-Duluth, the WCHA sure seemed to have it in for its ECAC opponents this weekend. Malone, a Colorado Avalanche pick way back in 2007, scored twice as the Sioux assaulted RPI 6-0, holding it 0 for 8 on the power play and outshooting it 40-21. Malone's linemates,  Evan Trupp and Toronto Maple Leafs draftee Matt Frattin, had three and two points, respectively, in the win as well. Goaltender Aaron Dell pretty much slept through his shutout.

3. Mike Connolly, Minnesota-Duluth

It should have come to the surprise of absolutely no one that a day after UMD handled Union with relative ease, that it would have a similar lack of a problem in dispatching conference-mate Yale, regardless of the latter's status as the top team in the country. Led by Connolly's four points, and a combined five more from linemates Jack Connolly (no relation) and Justin Fontaine, the Bulldogs punched their ticket to St. Paul with breezy bravado. Even if they did take too many penalties for the second game in a row, and this time allow three power play goals on eight chances. The four-goal second period and Frozen Four trip probably made that a bit easier to swallow.

Two other results I didn't get to earlier

Notre Dame 4, Merrimack 3 (OT)

Islanders sixth-round pick Anders Lee (one of those hockey players whose name seems to require being stated in full) scored two fairly massive goals for the Irish. The first came midway through the second period, when Merrimack had gone up 3-1, and was a fluke goal for the ages. The shot came from the off wing, and wasn't espeically hard, but somehow nicked off Merrimack netminder and Vancouver Canucks 2008 pick Joe Cannata to bring Notre Dame within one. The second was an unassisted overtime game-winner. Which I guess is the kind of goal you're looking for.

New Hampshire 3, Miami 1

The early pace of this game was insane. Bryon Paulazzo scored 53 seconds in for Miami, and UNH leveled it exactly a minute later on a goal from freshman Kevin Goumas. And despite the fact that Miami is a) better than UNH by any reasonable metric except the score here, and b) deep as an ocean down the middle, the Wildcats held them to just 22 shots and three power plays, which is a hell of a recipe for success.

Mike Sislo scored 39 seconds into the third period to give UNH a lead it would never relinquish, and Goumas scored into an empty net to ice it. Matt Di Girolamo made 21 saves in the win.

Later today, the two remaining regional finals will be between Denver and North Dakota (5:30 p.m.) and New Hampshire and Notre Dame (8). Both are on ESPNU.

Ryan Lambert covers the NCAA hockey tournament for Puck Daddy. You can e-mail him here if you want, but you should definitely follow him on Twitter.

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