NEXT GAME: 5:30PM, Thursday, March 23rd vs. #3 Denver in Manchester, NH, at the NCAA Regional
We made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2019 after a disappointing loss to Harvard in the ECAC semifinals at Lake Placid last Friday night. We knew after the loss that our chances for the tournament were getting slimmer, but you have to have faith. Probably, 99% of life is out of your hands but we had the faith that if it was meant to happen, it would.
Obviously, we were down after Friday’s loss, but I was proud our players. We came and did what we had to do to control their offense. We had chances, but not as many as we wanted. Harvard is a good defensive team. I honestly thought if we came and played a frustrating style, Harvard would get impatient. They didn’t, so give them credit; the game was a defensive tug-of-war with both teams playing disciplined and patient.
There really wasn’t much offense in the game as both teams skated up and down the ice for nearly 65 minutes. We were shut-out for only the third time this season. Nearly the entire game was played at even strength; each team took one penalty. Special teams have been our strength all season. That goes on us and we talked about it between periods. We needed to protect pucks better and get them to the net. We had spent 40 percent of our practice-time this past week working on the power play. But, you need to draw penalties.
Neither team generated much offensive pressure in the first period, which featured 16 face-offs. For the game, we won 26 of 44 face-offs, with senior forward Zach Tupker winning 9-of-10. The second period saw a bit more offense. We had a 6-5 edge on shots-on-goal but still no goals. In the third period, Harvard had a 10-7 advantage in shots-on-goal. Both goaltenders did their part preventing pucks going into the net.
We had an excellent scoring opportunity early in the overtime period when senior forward Ben Berard had a shot on the doorstep, but the Harvard goaltender was equal to the task. The game-winner came at 4:28 of OT. Harvard sent a cross-slot pass to set up the game-winner and a sprawling Ian Shane could not stop the one-timer from the left face-off circle. Our defense was superb blocking 19 shots and Shane made 24 saves. Both teams were 0-for-1 on the power play.
Senior defenseman Sam Malinski was named to the ECAC first team for the second consecutive year.
We waited all day Saturday and after both BU and St. Cloud won their games, we knew we would get our NCAA tournament bid. On Sunday night’s selection show, we learned we would play #3 Denver in Manchester, NH on Thursday. Denver is 30-9-0 overall and 19-5-0 in NCHC play. Denver ranks third in the country in power-play-percentage (27.2%), and we are fourth (26.4%). We are second in Division I in scoring defense (2.00), while Denver is fifth (2.15). On offense, the Pioneers are averaging 3.85 goals per game (sixth) and the Big Red 3.41 (eighth).
The team looks to make a great showing on the national scene. I’m very proud of this team! They have given everything this year at all times, and as a coach, that is all you can ask for. We hope to see many of the Lynah Faithful at 5:30 Thursday in Manchester.