March 24, 2007
Northeast Regional | First Round
Miami Cherishes Underdog Role
Understanding its place in the tournament helped motivate the RedHawks

By Jeff Howe

Miami 2,
New Hampshire 1
Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
1-MIA Nathan Davis (21) EV
1:47 B. Kaufman, R. Jones

Second Period

No scoring
Third Period
2-MIA Ryan Jones (29) EV
0:39 Unassisted
1-UNH Mike Radja (19) SH
15:15 C. Switzer, B. Flaishans
Goaltending
MIA: Jeff Zatkoff, 59:29, 43 saves, 1 GA
UNH: Kevin Regan, 58:39, 23 saves, 2 GA
Penalties: MIA 7/14; UNH 6/12
Power Plays: MIA 0-6; UNH 0-7
Attendance: 9,015

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Miami knew its place in the landscape of the NCAA tournament. The RedHawks were the last team in and were a mere Midwestern speed bump on the way to an all-Hockey East regional final in Manchester.

They knew; they just didn't care.

Miami took the "nothing to lose" approach all week during practice and kept it going when the puck dropped in its first-round matchup with top-seeded New Hampshire, which was playing less than 40 miles from its campus in Durham. They had nothing to lose and everything to gain, including its first ever NCAA tournament win in five tries – by a 2-1 margin.

"Everyone was coming in here talking about UNH and BC," said Miami goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who made 43 saves. "We thought we had nothing to lose. People wrote us off like we weren't supposed to be here. We just went out there like we had nothing to lose."

"If you lose, you go home, so technically you do have something to lose," Miami defenseman Mitch Ganzak countered. "But, we weren't supposed to be here. We were the last at-large team to get in. New Hampshire was No. 1. This was pretty much a home for them, too. If you look at it, we had nothing to lose. We weren't supposed to win, and we just went out there, had fun and played our game."

In the final minutes, Zatkoff and Ganzak turned the tide. UNH took a timeout with 1:21 left, and Miami called one with 27.7 seconds remaining. While the bench tried to leave their goalie alone, he had a message for them.

"I just wanted to reiterate to the guys when I told them we're winning this game and stay positive even though they got that short-handed goal [at 15:15 of the third]," Zatkoff said. "Our attitude the whole game was positive, and I just wanted to make sure it stayed that way."

Following the second timeout, Ganzak skated over to Zatkoff, who was getting ready in the crease. Ganzak tapped his goalie on the head and tried to pump him up.

"I just said, '27 seconds, let's get it done. You've been a brick for us all night. Keep doing it,'" Ganzak said.

On the other side, UNH's season came to another premature halt. The Wildcats flew out to a hot 22-5-1 start before finishing the regular season at 1-4-1. After winning three in a row to get to the Hockey East championship, they closed out on a two-game losing streak.

Still, Miami coach Rico Blasi took exception to the loss that was already chalked up on his team's docket.

"Obviously, everyone here wanted UNH-BC, and so everybody is going to write that," Blasi said. "Our guys have a lot of pride, and they want to come out and play hard. This is not the first time we've been here. We lost a tough one last year to a good team.

"We came in here confident with nothing to lose. We're not supposed to be here. Go out and play, and play for 60 minutes. That's exactly what the coaches said. We didn't talk about them disrespecting us or anything like that. I have a lot of respect for Coach Umile. I thought he did a great job in trying to deflect the media trying to hype up a BC-UNH rematch."

A rematch, which obviously won't happen. The RedHawks had it right. They were playing with house money and didn't mind laying it all on the line. Tomorrow against BC, it'll be double or nothing.

"Anything can happen," Ganzak said. "If you play like you have nothing to lose, and the other team maybe possibly takes you lightly, anything to happen. Tonight, it did."

Boston College 4,
St. Lawrence 1

Team Goal Str
Time Assists
First Period
1-BC Brian Boyle (18) EV
1:24 B. Smith, B. Bradford

Second Period

2-BC Ben Smith (9) PP
0:40 N. Gerbe, B. Bradford
1-SLU Brock McBride (9) EV
2:12 M. Taylor
Third Period
3-BC Andrew Orpik (3) EV
3:34 B. O'Hanley
4-BC Brock Bradford (19) EN
19:37 N. Gerbe, M. Greene
Goaltending
SLU: Alex Petizian, 56:20, 31 saves, 3 GA
BC: Cory Schneider, 60:00, 24 saves, 1 GA
Penalties: SLU 8/16; BC 10/20
Power Plays: SLU 0-6; BC 1-4
Attendance: 9,015

AVOIDING THE UPSET

The writing was literally on the wall for Boston College. Before the Eagles headed out to the ice, they had written "Get the first goal" in giant letters on the board.

So, that's what the Eagles did. Just 1:24 into the first period, Brian Boyle wristed a shot from the right-wing circle past Alex Petizian, giving BC the early 1-0 lead.

They immediately captured the momentum and won a hard fought 4-1 contest – the score doesn't reflect the game – against St. Lawrence.

"We needed to set the tone right away and so you get a little confidence behind your back," BC forward Nathan Gerbe said. "Sometimes you get a little nervous, but we kept playing well."

Boston College didn't need any extra motivation to come out swinging against the lower-seeded Saints. It had already seen UMass, Maine, Michigan State and Miami pull off upsets in the first 24 hours of the NCAA tournament. And, Alabama-Huntsville and Air Force nearly did the same. The Eagles knew their 10-game winning streak entering the national tourney meant absolutely nothing when they laced up their skates.

"I feel like we have to put in the extra focus, especially at this time of the year," Gerbe said. "One loss is the end of the season now. Miami is a very good team. We know that. We played them last year in the regionals. They're going to come out hard. They played well against UNH and got the win against them. We've got to be well prepared for that."

They'll be forced to take on the RedHawks tomorrow. A loss may be twice as bad since no four-seed has ever advanced to the Frozen Four since the field expanded to 16 teams in 2003.

"You look at the Miami roster, and you see the guys they've got," Boyle said. "We don't look at the four-seed. We look at the players they've got. They've got Zatkoff in net, and Davis and Jones up front. Those are three pretty big names that really jump out at us. They just beat New Hampshire. You can't really worry about what seed they are right now, whether they squeaked in or however they got into the tournament. We've got to play them. They're going to want to try to get to the Frozen just as bad as we are."

Right now, it's a testament to how deep the tournament pool has gotten.

"In basketball, there are so many [teams]," BC coach Jerry York said. "But, I think if you get in our field of 16, it's a pretty good club. We were very cognizant of the fact that Alabama-Huntsville took Notre Dame to the second OT. The fourth seeds are winning games. I don't think we were thinking this was a big underdog situation with St. Lawrence."

SEEN AND HEARD AT VERIZON WIRELESS ARENA

INCH's Three Stars of the Night

3. Ben Smith, Boston College
Freshman center has helped keep the first line moving without Boyle. Scoring the game-winner helps, too.

2. Ryan Jones, Miami
Had the game-winning goal and an assist. His goal may have been of the fluky variety, but a goal is a goal and a winner is a winner.

1. Jeff Zatkoff, Miami
The netminder stopped 43 UNH shots to carry the RedHawks to victory.

• Miami coach Rico Blasi made the decision to start Jeff Zatkoff over Charlie Effinger Thursday night. Zatkoff said after the game that he expects to start Sunday afternoon.

• The Miami fans were greatly outnumbered, but they were pretty good at making themselves heard in the hostile environment.

• There were a few Maine fans spotted around the arena. Not sure if they got lost on their way to Rochester or just like rooting against UNH that much.

• Overheard in the media meal room during the second intermission: "We're going to need to get more drinks. These people go through drinks like no other." Welcome to the world of sports journalism.

• Before today, the last time UNH scored in an NCAA tournament game was in the Northeast Regional Final in 2005. Daniel Winnik lit the lamp at the 13:27 mark of the second period on a penalty shot in a 4-2 loss to Denver in Amherst, Mass. The Wildcats were shut out, 1-0, by Michigan State in the East Regional Semifinal last year. The NCAA tournament scoring drought ended at 141:48.

• The fish that the UNH faithful heave onto the ice after the Wildcats' first goal nearly hit Miami defenseman Brad Robbins, who seemed a bit startled when he looked down and saw the fish gliding toward him.

• Funny things can happen to a team playing in a neutral arena. After Dan Bertram was whistled for hooking at 8:39 of the first period, the BC forward took a seat in the wrong penalty box.

• There was a mix-up in front of Cory Schneider with 5:30 remaining in the first period. While play went back to the St. Lawrence zone, Mike McKenzie tangled up with Brian Boyle in the crease, causing all three of them to fall down. Schneider got up and took a swipe at McKenzie with his stick. As Boyle and McKenzie eventually made their way down the ice to rejoin the action, the whistle blew and Boyle poked McKenzie from behind, causing him to fall. Boyle got two minutes in the box for slashing.

• If you were looking at tonight's line charts and wondering why Alex Petizian was wearing No. 32 and not his listed No. 30, you weren't alone. Petizian wears 32 on the road and 30 at home because St. Lawrence does not have a red sweater with 30 on it.

• There was a scary moment with 18:59 remaining in the third period. BC had a two-on-one, and Joe Rooney crossed it to Benn Ferriero, who took the shot. Petizian made a great save moving to his left, but the puck hit him in the throat. He dropped to the ice, and the game was delayed for a few minutes while the trainers attended to him. He got up, stayed in the game and made a few nice saves right away, too.

"The shot hit me right in the neck," Petizian said. "Luckily, I had the neck protector on, or else I think it could have been really bad. I lost a little bit of air at first but regained it."

• Brock McBride's goal at 2:12 of the second marked the first time Cory Schneider had been beaten in NCAA Regional play in two years. He shut out Miami and Boston University in last season's Northeast Regional, and his scoreless streak ran to 142:12.

PLUSSES AND MINUSES

There was a loud cheer when the video board showed Air Force leading Minnesota 3-1 in the third period and then a loud roar of boos when it showed Minnesota won 4-3. The groans got louder when the video board spotted a fan wearing a Gophers jersey and telling everyone he was No. 1.

Even though the host Wildcats were bounced in the first game of the afternoon, the crowd remained relatively strong. A few left the building, but the atmosphere remained solid.

Always been a fan of Barry Melrose, but to hear he compared Brian Boyle to Bobby Orr is a bit disappointing. This isn't a knock on Boyle, who has done a fine job on the blue line in the recent transition, but Bobby Orr?

WHAT'S NEXT

Boston College will meet Miami Sunday at 3:30 p.m. for the rights to go to the Frozen Four. All-time, the Eagles and RedHawks have split four meetings with each side winning twice. The two teams met in the opening round of last season's Northeast Regional Benn Ferriero scored a pair of goals, and Cory Schneider made 33 saves to lead BC to a 5-0 win. Charlie Effinger stopped 26 of 30 shots in net for Miami. Jerry York actually recruited Nate Davis to play for BC, but he chose Miami.