Midwest Regional |
Near Miss at History
Notre Dame escaped the big upset, while
Michigan State bounced back to rout BU
Alabama-Huntsville 2 2OT
Lawson, B. Blatchford
Blake MacNichol, 4:26, 1 save, 2 GA; Marc Narduzzi,
90:52, 49 saves, 1 GA
David Brown, 95:18, 28 saves, 2 GA
AH 6/12; ND 2/4
Plays: AH 0-2; ND 1-6
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The mere fact
that media types were talking about Holy Cross’ year-old
upset of Minnesota after dinnertime Friday night was a testament
to what Alabama-Huntsville did at the NCAA Midwest Regional
at Van Andel Arena.
The Chargers were one bounce away from a stunner
that would have rivaled The Shot Heard ’Round Grand
Forks last spring. But after nearly five periods of hockey,
top-seeded Notre Dame finally put away the feisty Chargers,
3-2, on freshman Ryan Thang’s winning goal 15:18 into
It was a classic game, with the Fighting Irish
scoring two suspect goals in the first five minutes, prompting
UAH to pull goalie Blake MacNicol. Senior Marc Narduzzi
came on and kept the Irish at bay, allowing the Big Blue
to tie it up with a pair late in the second. Then came many
minutes of scoreless hockey, which both thrilled and annoyed
the crowd that was anticipating the home-state Spartans
in the nightcap.
“My gut’s killing me right now,”
Notre Dame bench boss Jeff Jackson said. “Games like
that, it almost seems surreal, you don’t have any
The view was similar from the other bench,
where UAH’s Doug Ross wrapped up a 25-year career.
“I think we represented our school very
well,” the retiring coach said after his first Division
I tourney appearance. “We played with all of the heart
and all of the spirit we had. It was a great moment in my
|Kevin Deeth watches Ryan Thang's
game-winner beat Marc Narduzzi.
Yet it wasn’t enough. Thang’s
second goal of the game was a beauty, as he walked off the
boards, declined to pass to defenseman Brett Blatchford,
who was cocked for a one-timer, and fired a wrister from
the high slot that beat Narduzzi high on his blocker side
to give Notre Dame its first NCAA tournament win ever.
“He was just on fire with his glove,
so I knew I had to go high-blocker,” Thang said. “I
kind of lost it on the way, but then I saw the water bottle
Narduzzi, who made 49 saves, thinks he should
have had it.
“He disappeared for a second, then reappeared,”
Narduzzi said. “It was a good shot, but, in all honesty,
I should have stopped it. I don’t know if fatigue
played a role, but it wasn’t one of the harder shots
Boston University 1
Gilroy, L. Popko
Kennedy, T. Howells
Grahan, N. Sucharski
Lerg, C. Mueller
Dunne, T. Howells
Jeff Lerg, 60:00, 27 saves, 1 GA
John Curry, 60:00, 21 saves, 5 GA
MSU 8/16; BU 10/42
Plays: MSU 1-7; BU 0-6
For the first half of the first period of
Friday’s finale, Boston University looked like it
was going to Zamboni the ice with Michigan State’s
carcass. The Terriers were big, fast and dangerous.
Then MSU got a lucky bounce of the end boards,
Tim Kennedy deposited the puck with a neat backhand and
BU, in coach Jack Parker’s words, “disintegrated.”
The result was a surprisingly lopsided 5-1 Spartan win that
set up an all-CCHA regional final.
“The first period was the most tired
I’ve been all year,” Kennedy said. “I
didn’t think I’d have enough to finish the last
But the Spartans did, and then some. After
Kennedy’s goal forged a 1-1 tie midway through the
first, MSU simply poured it on. Tim Crowder added two tallies,
including a breakaway after a marathon breakout pass from
Tyler Howells that made folks wonder how the NHL ever outlawed
the two-line pass.
“It was a weird game to watch us play,”
Parker said. “We were a bit legless, but the difference
in the game was that we didn’t finish our chances,
and we just gave them theirs. The goals came from an inability
in our own zone. It was unbelievable to see us implode like
that. After those (first) two (goals), we just watched.”
Following the double-overtime opener, the
final horn didn’t sound until about 12:30 a.m.
“Now we’ve got to get ’em
something to eat and get ’em to bed,” MSU coach
Rick Comley said. “It’s amazing to start a game
at 10 o’clock. I go to bed at 10 o’clock.”
AND HEARD AT VAN ANDEL ARENA
INCH's Three Stars of the Night
Marc Narduzzi, Alabama-Huntsville
senior goalie came on in relief about five minutes
into the game, already trailing, 2-0. He stopped the
first 49 shots he saw and gave UAH as much of a chance
to win as it could have asked for.
Tim Kennedy, Michigan State
He scored Sparty's first goal on a wicked
backhander, then set up linemate Tim Crowder for another
with a great pass from the far boards that hit Crowder's
tape a split-second before he would have been too
deep into the crease to direct it home.
Ryan Thang, Notre Dame
The dynamic freshman left wing was the most
dangerous player on the ice Friday, netting two of
Notre Dame's three goals, including the winner in
• Overheard during a rendition of “Sweet
Home Alabama” by UAH’s band: “Is that
their fight song?”
• Best omen for the Irish: the UPS advertisement
with the “What can BROWN do for you” slogan
that hovered over goaltender David Brown’s left shoulder
in the first and third periods and both overtimes.
• The UAH band seemed to outnumber the
tried-and-true Charger fans in the building (not counting
the folks just cheering for an upset), but the bandos more
than made up for the tiny turnout with their spirit. The
best – and weirdest – chant had to be the spelling
out of “The University of Alabama in Huntsville”
in the style of “Gimme a T,” “Gimme an
H.” It was almost as long as the game.
• Speaking of bands, each team brought
one. As they should.
• Red Wings defenseman and Irish alum
Brett Lebda was in the house.
• There was no meat at the media dinner.
Oh, right, Notre Dame was in town on a Friday.
• CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos is heading
to Wrestlemania next week at Ford Field to scout configuration
models for the 2010 Frozen Four.
|Tim Kennedy backhands MSU's first
goal past John Curry.
• Brown wasn’t nearly as scruffy
as his Irish teammates. Apparently, he trims his playoff
beard. “It’s a little different with a mask
pressed up against your face.”
• Even from the upper reaches of Van
Andel, it’s striking how BIG the Terrier defensemen
• BU finished the game with just 16
skaters. Defenseman Tom Morrow got a game misconduct for
hitting from behind in the second, and center Luke Popko
got one for spearing in the third.
thanks to Neil Koepke of the Lansing State Journal for
loaning INCH his backup laptop to file this report.
hard to believe that Huntsville was statistically one of
the worst defensive teams in the country this season. On
Friday, the Chargers displayed good sticks and showed a
penchant and willingness for blocking shots. The hustle
more or less summed up their overall effort in coach Doug
Ross’ last game. “I hope, when I retire, my
team plays like that for me,” ND coach Jeff Jackson
attendance checked in somewhere near mediocre, with almost
as many folks in the stands for the early game as the late,
when the nearby Spartans were featured. Officially, there
were 5,201 butts in the seats.
Alabama-Huntsville played quite well Friday, there’s
still that ever-present pall around the program as its league,
College Hockey America, faces an uncertain future. The general
feeling of those in the know doesn’t bode well for
the five-team league’s future, and there’s much
consternation about its programs beyond next season.
bad the Sparty band used the “Warm up the bus”
chant at the end of the game. Jackie Parker ain’t
busing from New England to Lake Michigan.
|Cale Tanaka scored through traffic
for Alabama-Huntsville to tie the score at 2-2 and set
the stage for the two-overtime finish.
Notre Dame and Michigan State split their
season series, 1-1, with each team winning at home. ND coach
Jeff Jackson, an MSU alumnus, would like his team to play
as aggressively as it did against UAH, but that is a riskier
strategy against a skilled team. The faceoff for Saturday’s
regional final is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. (and this one
will start on time).
The Chargers end the season at 13-20-3, and
they’ll enter the 2007-08 campaign with a new coach
and a fairly young lineup. Eight seniors played their last
game in blue and white on Friday, including UAH’s
top six scorers and No. 1 goalie. The school will conduct
a national search for a new coach, with the goal of hiring
somebody by late April or May. The top internal candidate
is assistant coach Lance West.
Boston University suited up just five seniors
Friday, foremost among them all-star goalie John Curry and
captain Sean Sullivan. Much of the team’s offensive
firepower, limited as it is, will return barring early defections.