Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Monday, March 27, 2017

48 Hours in Fargo, One Goal Short of Chicago

Charlie McAvoy and Clayton Keller celebrate
the game winning goal in double overtime vs
North Dakota.
(Photo by Matt Dresens
The first number on the alarm clock started with a four when it abruptly went off Friday morning signaling the start of another trip west to the regionals, my third trek to the midwest in five years for such an occasion. 

After landing in Fargo just two hours before puck drop against North Dakota, I knew I didn’t have time to check into the hotel or otherwise I would have been late. So I changed in the bathroom, booked it down the escalator and out onto the concourse where, to my surprise, there actually was a taxi service. 

I had to instruct the nice driver man three times that I was not trying to go to the Fargo Dome, but instead Scheels Arena. He then said he would take me to Scheels (a Bass Pro Shop type store) and I was again trying to explain to him to him that I was in fact not looking to buy a firearm or hunting gear and I would really like to get to the arena sometime before the opening face-off. Eventually, he got it…

As I walk into the area concourse with a red duffle bag and a shirt and tie on, three to four separate North Dakota fans jokingly asked me “you miss the bus?” After swimming through a sea of Sioux Hawks fans in the lobby, I found a nice spread of deli meats in the press room, fixed myself a pair of turkey sandwiches and double fisted my way with two subs to the press box just in time catch warmups. The timing was perfect and thankfully nothing was delayed. 

The emotions of the first game (ok maybe both games) are why we watch sports. The ebbs, the flows the back and forth of that game was unparalleled. It instantly vaulted onto the short list of most exciting BU’s games I have attended.

You know the story about the game. BU was up 3-1, Kieffer Bellows was slammed through the glass, North Dakota turned that into momentum, scored two tying goals and looked to have won it, but was offsides all before Charlie McAvoy actually won the game in double overtime. 

North Dakota’s Rehtt Gardener, who scored the game’s first goal way back in the first period said “"It was a whirlwind of emotion for sure, we did a really good job of sticking to it, we knew there was a chance, it was close call, I thought we settled ourselves down and played a really good game after that. It's a tough bounce but I thought we answered the only way we could and played as hard as we could."

Jake Oettinger added, “When you thought they ended it, you’re obviously upset, but you see them go look at it and obviously, it took a long time so we knew that we might get another shot at it. I think we took advantage of the opportunity we were given. I can’t say enough about the effort the guys gave. I know a lot of people were counting us out in this game. It was grit, heart and determination we showed tonight and I couldn’t be more proud of these guys and I couldn’t be prouder to be a BU Terrier right now.”

The roller coaster that game turned into is almost unparalleled to any BU game I have ever attended. I have never experienced a team full on lose in overtime, have a goal be reversed on a review and then go on to win. The only game that comes to mind is the 2003 Fiesta Bowl between Miami and Ohio State, where the Hurricanes seemed to have won the national title; fireworks were being shot off and confetti was pouring onto the field, but out of all the chaos, a flag was thrown for pass interference in overtime. The field was cleared and on the next position, Ohio State won the game. Even that wasn’t reviewed, though. It was just a flag no one saw. 

Burnt Boats on twitter summed it up perfectly saying, “I have experienced the thrill of victory and agony of defeat and the game isn’t even over yet.”  

The glory and jubilation lasted for a while before I was sitting at Applebee’s in West Fargo with two kids from WTBU Student Radio when we all look at each other and remember, “shit, we have another game to prep for.” We waited until Duluth scored the overtime winner against Ohio State before leaving. At this point, I had been up for close to 17 hours. Anything for hockey I guess. 
Downtown Fargo and all its's glory. Yes,
that's a multi-colored Bison

Prior to the game on Saturday, I traveled into “downtown” Fargo to check out the town. It was underwhelming, to say the least, but I wasn’t expecting much. It reminded me a lot of the center of Natick, to be honest. I did, however, get a fabulous Bison steak at the Hotel Donaldson at the corner of 1st and Broadway. 

From the HoDo as it was referred to, I made my way back to the arena, where it was once again time for hockey. 

Much like the North Dakota game, you know how this one ended. BU struck first for the first time in 10 games, Duluth tied it in the closing minute of the first, took the lead late in the third, Patrick Harper tied it with roughly three minutes left, and Duluth won in overtime on the power play. 

"They get the power play in overtime which was the right call,” said coach Quinn. “It's a penalty and our penalty kill's been great all year, and we just weren't able to kill the last one. What a great play by them, they make an unbelievable play to keep the puck in, we win the draw and Doyle does a great job firing around, and [UMD defenseman Neal Pionk] made an unbelievable play to keep the puck in and Doyle makes a great block and was a little bit staggered and they smelled blood and they took advantage of it. That's what great teams do and that's why they're going to the Frozen Four, they've been doing that all year long and you have to give them a lot of credit." 

Doyle Somerby, who played his last game as a Terrier on Saturday added, “We've come a long way my four years, the first four years with Coach Quinn and you get 10 wins your first year, you don't really know what to expect after that. To make the tournament three times in a row is pretty special and obviously I wish it ended better and you always want to write the right end of the script, but it was just a tough game."

It was certainly disappointing. I think I can speak for everyone who followed the team this year in saying they were looking forward to Chicago. I for one love the city. I was lucky to attend game two of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final at the United Center and saw the Bruins win 2-1 overtime and always thought the city would be a fun spot for the Frozen Four. I had it circled on my calendar and thought it was a real possibility, but somethings are not meant to be. Sometimes you come up one goal short. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Duluth Gets OT Winner; Season Comes To End

It was another instant classic, just this time BU was on the other side of the OT winner as Minnesota-Duluth knocked off the Terriers 3-2 in overtime on a power play to advance to the Frozen Four in Chicago.
The agony of defeat.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
1:39 into overtime, Bobo Carpenter was sent to the box for tripping, sending Duluth to the power play. Less than 20 seconds later, Minnesota-Duluth was pouring over the boards celebrating a trip to the Frozen Four. Adam Johnson wristed home the game-winner from the top of the circle after walking in from the point, getting around a hobbling Doyle Somerby, who had just blocked shot, and beat Jake Oettinger high blocker side.

“It's incredibly disappointing for us,” said coach Quinn. “They get the power play in overtime, which was the right call, I mean it's a penalty. Our penalty kill’s been great all year and we just weren’t able to kill the last one on a great play by them.”

BU had killed 27 straight penalties, the most since 2010 before UMD scored in overtime.

Back in the first, Clayton Keller got BU on the board just under eight minutes into the game on a nifty backhand that went top shelf on UMD goalie Hunter Miska. Minutes prior to the goal, Miska stoned JFK on a point-blank bid with a sensational leg save.
Keller's 21st goal of the year.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
Duluth tied the game on a wraparound goal with just 17 seconds left in the opening period. BU was trying to set up an odd-man rush the other way, but the pass was broken up and from behind the goal line, Alex Iafallo swooped in and wrapped home his 19th goal of the year.

UMD took the lead with 8:22 left in regulation. Joey Anderson drove hard to the net and fired off a shot that Oettinger kicked back into the slot. Anderson followed his shot and buried it for his 11th of the year.

With their backs against the wall, BU played their best hockey of the weekend following the go-ahead goal. The applied pressure and created chances, but it was Patrick Harper, who tied the game up with just 3:13 left, after a great individual effort. Harper came in with speed and pulled up at the top of the circle, creating a bit of separation for himself to get a shot off that was perfectly placed off the inside crossbar.

“I thought we amped it up a bit after they made it 2-1, but I thought we were playing well leading into that before they got the second goal,” added Quinn. We just remained calm and kept grinding away, eventually, you might get a break and might able to beat him. Harper makes a heck of a play coming down and cutting in. He’s got such a quick release and that thing got into the net in a hurry.”

Despite the comeback, it was not meant to be.

It was a fantastic weekend out here in Fargo. It was everything you wanted in the playoffs: a roaring crowd, comebacks, and overtime. Yes, it was a disappointing result a really tough way to have the season end, but I had a wonderful time covering the team this year. Thanks to all who followed along. I’ll have a year-end write up sometime in the next few days, but other than that, see back here in October.  

Minnesota Duluth Preview - West Regional Final

It's a quick turnaround for the Terriers this afternoon in the West Regional final in Fargo, North Dakota. They will face Minnesota Duluth for the right to play in Chicago, in two weeks, at the Frozen Four.
Evan Rodrigues scores the game-winning goal with 2:24 left on the power play against UMD, 
sending BU to the Frozen Four in 2015 

Two years ago, BU dropped Duluth 3-2 in an epic Northeast Regional final in Manchester to send the Terriers to the Frozen Four in Boston.

Yesterday, both BU and Duluth played thrilling overtime games leaving no rest for the weary tonight. Willie Raskob delivered the game winner 11:58 into overtime with a bomb from the point to send Duluth past Ohio state 3-2, despite leading the Buckeyes 2-0 after two periods.

Duluth’s goalie Hunter Miska was sensational between the pipes, turning aside 40 shots, including three or four highlight reel saves.

“We’ve grinded through games and even when you’re not at your best every game, we found ways to win and tonight was no different,” said Duluth coach Scott Sandelin after the game. “We gave up the lead and played on our heels and relied on some great saves from our goaltender to keep it tied and fortunately made a play in overtime to get the win. Certainly excited about moving on and obviously BU is a very good team—like everybody this time of year.”

UMD has lost just once in their last 18 games, going 14-1-3 since January 13th. In that stretch, they beat North Dakota three times, including last weekend in the NCHC championship game. The only loss came at the hands of Western Michigan on February 4th, a 7-4 defeat in Kalamazoo. Duluth is currently riding a six-game win streak and has scored 32 goals in the month of March alone. UMD has scored the 8th most goals in the country with 133. Penn State had the most at 153.

Scouting the Bulldogs:
Senior Ryan Iafallo leads the scourging pace with 47 points off of 18 goals and 29 assists in 39 games played. Yesterday, he picked up two assists, including one in the overtime winner. Adam Johnson is second at 36 points by way of 17 goals and 19 assists. Duluth has scoring depth, coming into this game with seven players with 22 or more points.

In goal, Hunter Miska has a .919 save percentage and a 2.21 goals against average in his first collegiate campaign. Nationally, Miska is the 18th ranked goalie in the country. Jake Oettinger on the other hand, is 9th.

History:
As stated before, BU and UMD met in the 2015 Northeast Regional Final and that marks the only time these two schools have ever faced each other in the NCAA tournament.

In fact, BU and Duluth have only played six games head to head all time, with BU holding a 4-2-0 record.

Photos From North Dakota

FARGO - Finally had time to throw these together into a slide show. Photos from yesterday's game.

Friday, March 24, 2017

McAvoy Double OT Winner Sends BU Past North Dakota

Charlie McAvoy and the BU Terriers silenced a packed house at Scheels Arena in Fargo with a thrilling double overtime win in the opening round of the NAA West Reginal. 

Charlie McAvoy reacts after scoring the game-winning goal
in the second overtime.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
With a 3-1 lead and roughly ten minutes to play, BU was in the driver's seat, despite getting heavily outplayed by North Dakota. Then the game hinged on a single play. Along the near wall, Kieffer Bellows took a heavy hit from Mike Gornal that shattered the glass. Coming out of an extended maintenance break, North Dakota scored two goals in just over two minutes to tie things up.

First, Ludvig Hoff beat Jake Oettinger up over his shoulder for his fourth goal of the year to cut the BU lead to one. Not long after, Christian Wolanin tucked one, five-hole on Oettinger that sent the hometown crowd into a frenzy.

The real fun was just beginning, though. After surviving a furious ND attack, BU was able to force overtime thanks in large part to Jake Oettinger making stop after stop all night, not just in the third period.
Doyle Somerby celebrates after his
first period goal.
(Photo by Matt Dresens)
Minutes into OT, the Hawks looked to have scored the game-winning goal. It came on a scramble play at the side of the net and both benches emptied; North Dakota’s in jubilation and BU’s in depression. But it wasn’t official and after a lengthy review, the play was ruled offsides. I have still yet to actually see the replay.

“They get the goal in overtime and everybody thinks the game is over,” said Coach Quinn. “We thought that it might be offsides. You know, it seemed the longer it [the replay] took the better chance we were gonna have another chance to live another day. When the linesman buckled his helmet coming out of the box, we knew we were gonna get another chance.”

Not long after the goal reversal call, Kieffer Bellows rang the post with a turnaround swat at the puck in mid-air. He cleanly beat UND goalie Cam Johnson, but the post had other plans.

Other than that one chance, BU was barely surviving the first overtime. They registered zero shots on goal in the first extra session and had to kill a penalty in the closing minutes of the frame just to extend the game.

And extend it they did. Along the near wall, Clayton Keller patiently held the puck and created some time and space for himself. Meanwhile, Charlie McAvoy was crashing backdoor. From the bottom of the circle, Keller found him all alone in the bottom of the far dot and from there, McAvoy punched home the double overtime game winner. It was McAvoy’s fifth of the year.

“I kinda stood up at the blue line and waited for Clayton to come up that wall there,” mentioned McAvoy. “I know he’s a dynamic player so when you put it in his hands you know there's a good chance something good’s gonna happen. I kinda just watched the play and observed, you know, saw a lane going to the net and I figured he would find me open and that’s exactly what he did.”

Way back in the first period, North Dakota opened the scoring with 2:56 left in the stanza on Rhett Gardner’s eighth goal of the year.

BU then looked to one of it's most unlikely goal scorers to tie things up 2:05 into the second. Doyle Somerby scored his first goal of the year back door off an unreal feed from McAvoy to get the Terriers on the board.

28 seconds into the third, Clayton Keller made a crafty play behind the net to create a passing lane to find Bobo Carpenter for a slam dunk finish out in front. Roughly four minutes later, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson was sent in alone down broadway thanks to a marvelous saucer pass from Patrick Harper in the neutral zone. From in tight, JFK tucked home a forehand to give BU a commanding 3-1 lead that would later slip away.

The Terriers were outplayed in every sense of the word, but still came out on top. Jake Oettinger was phenomenal in net, turning aside a career-high 56 shots. In total, BU was out attempted 145-67. Brandon Hickey had a staggering 17 block shots.

“Hicks has been a horse for us on the back end all year,” added BU goalie Jake Oettinger. “It’s no shocker to me that he had that many blocks tonight because he lays his body out every night”

BU awaits the winner of Minnesota Duluth and Ohio State for a chance to play in the Frozen Four in Chicago.

This marks BU’s longest game since game three of 2001 Hockey East Quarterfinals, a 4-3 loss to Providence with 4:44 left. This was the longest NCAA tournament game for the Fighting Hawks.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

North Dakota Preview - NCAA Tournament Round One

The waiting, the mock brackets, the constant checking of the PaireWise and league standings is finally over. As you know, 7th seeded BU will be headed west to play 10th seeded North Dakota, the host of the Fargo-West Regional in the NCAA tournament.

Brandon Hickey onetimes a Cason Hohman pass for a first period
power play goal against North Dakota in the 2015 Frozen Four
in Boston. 

This marks the fourth time since the field expanded to 16 teams in 2003 that BU has been shipped west. They went in 2007 to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and St. Paul, Minnesota in both 2012 and 2016.

The North Dakota Fighting Sioux Hawks had a late season push, winning six of their last eight games. This helped them to get off the bubble and shore up a three seed. NoDak swept St. Cloud in the opening round of the NCHC tournament and dropped top-rankled Denver in the semis, before falling in dramatic fashion to Minnesota-Duluth 4-3 in the NCHC championship game. The Bulldogs, who play the late game in Fargo on Friday night against Ohio State, scored the game-winning goal with just 51 seconds left on a five on three.

The Hawks started the year on a tear, winning five straight out of the gate, before slumping and failing to find the win column in their next six games. A year ago, North Dakota won the national championship with a 5-1 win over Quinnipiac in the title game.

A key for BU will be starting well. The Terriers have given up the first goal in their last nine games, going 4-4-1. Coach Quinn has said a few times over the stretch that even though his team gave up the first, he liked the way the team was playing.

Last week was a different story. “The past few weeks we’ve playing with fire and we played with an inferno tonight,” said Quinn after the 3-2 loss to BC in the Hockey East semis. A quick start will help reduce some of the noise level and atmosphere inside Scheels Arena that will undoubtedly be packed with green and white.

Scouting The Fighting Hawks
Sophomore Shane Gerish leads all skaters in points scored with 37, by way of 21 goals and 16 assists, but has been relatively quiet as of late, registering only four points in his last ten games. Freshman standout Tyson Jost, along with Dante Fabbro were the only two collegiate representatives on the Canadian World Junior Team. This year at North Dakota, Jost has posted 16 goals and 19 assists for 35 points in 32 games played. Brock Boeser, another WJC representative, this time for the US, is third with 16 goals and 17 assists for 33 points.

In total, there will be 13 players who have participated in the WJC tournament in this game. BU has ten of them.

In goal Cam Johnson, who was marvelous in North Dakota’s title run a year ago, has seen a bit of a dip in production. Last year, the Flint, Michigan native boasted a .935 save percentage with a 1.66 goal against average and was a finalist for the Richter Award. Johnson comes into this game with a .904 save percentage and a 2.38 goals against average.

History
BU and North Dakota have played six times in the NCAA’s, with BU’s 5-3 win in the 2015 National Semifinal being the most recent. The teams have only met once in the regionals, that was 2005 in Worcester with North Dakota winning 4-0 on their way to the national title game in Columbus, Ohio where they lost to Denver.

The two teams met in the 1997 national championship game. BU jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead on goals from Peter Donatelli and Chris Drury, but they were overmatched in the second period as North Dakota scored five goals in the frame. BU scored once with the goalie pulled, but ND picked up an empty net goal and winning 6-4 in Milwaukie.

BU, and the then Fighting Sioux also clashed in a three-game series at Walter Brown in the 1990 NCAA tournament. The Sioux won game one 8-5, but the Terriers rallied winning the next two (5-3 and 5-0) and advanced to play Michigan State in the second round.