Saturday, March 28, 2015

UNO Defeats Harvard 4-1 for First NCAA Tournament Victory

With Dominc Zombo returning to the lineup to provide needed inspiration, UNO won their first NCAA hockey tournament game ever in a 4-1 victory over Harvard. Grant Gallo pushed in a rebound just two minutes into the game to give the Mavs the early lead, then Avery Peterson scored with one second left in the first period to give UNO a 2-0 lead after the first period.

After a lackluster second period, Harvard came storming back in the third period with a 15-2 advantage in shots on goal midway through the period. Jimmy Vesey, the nation's leading scorer, cut UNO's lead to 2-1 early in the third period, but UNO was able to weather the storm the rest of the way. It helped that the Ivy Leaguers took two unnecessary penalties in the closing seven minutes.  Two empty net goals in the final minute padded the final score to 4-1.

Want more detail about the game itself?  Check out Chris Dilks' wrapup at SBN College Hockey.

UNO advances to the regional final on Sunday evening at 6:30 pm against the Rochester Institute of Technology, who upset #1 Minnesota State-Mankato earlier this afternoon.  The game will be televised by ESPNU.

I dare say that tonight's victory is the biggest UNO post-season victory since 2000 or 2001.  Some might point to the 2001 double-overtime game three victory over Ohio State, but I think this is as big as the "St. Patrick's Day Massacre" of Michigan in the 2000 CCHA semifinals in Detroit. In the 2005 NCAA tournament, UNO was just happy to get a bid to the tournament and got routed by Boston University.  In the 2011 tournament, the referees awarded the game to Michigan on a blown instant replay call in double overtime.

Whatever knee injury Ryan Massa suffered three weeks ago (and aggravated two weeks ago) looks to be all cleared up...and Dominic Zombo played the whole way, which should indicate that UNO is about as healthy as they could possibly be.  And one win away from the Frozen Four, with a game against the last team in the NCAA tournament. RIT won the Atlantic Hockey conference tournament and the automatic tournament bid, so the Tigers #35 Pairwise rating placed them against #1 Minnesota State-Mankato.

Cinderella pulled off the upset with a controversial goal late in the third period...though in the NCAA hockey tournament, Cinderella almost always makes it to the Frozen Four. On paper, you have to like UNO's chances against RIT...but history shows that it really doesn't matter in the tournament.

It's been quite a weekend for UNO's conference.  As I write this, North Dakota holds a 3-1 lead over fellow conference member St. Cloud State for one Frozen Four berth. Denver plays Providence, who hung on to beat Miami of the NCHC, for another Frozen Four berth. Tomorrow could be even better.

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