Dan DeSalvo

Back to Class: Conference tourneys can’t keep Cinderella away

We’re taking you “Back To Class” for our roundup of the weekend’s action in college hockey. Look for more college hockey on NBCSN this Friday at 5 and 8 p.m. ET for the Hockey East tournament semifinals. 

While you’re all busy this week analyzing your basketball brackets, college hockey is busy whittling their field down to see who makes it to the NCAA tournament. While you’re checking out to see which 12-seeds can be the darlings of the tournament, a pair of college teams are making their push to wear Cinderella’s glass slipper.

Bowling Green headed into the CCHA tournament as the bottom seed, 11th overall in the conference. While being the bottom seed usually makes you cannon fodder for the big boys, the Falcons have shocked six-seed Northern Michigan and top-seeded Ferris State in back-to-back weekends to reach the conference semifinals at Joe Louis Arena. Bowling Green’s hockey program was near death three years ago and now they’re two wins away from pulling off an incredible run to the NCAA tournament.

It won’t be simple for Bowling Green though. They needed all three games of the best-of-three series to get past both NMU and Ferris State, now it’s single elimination in the semis and finals and they’ve got a date with Michigan in the semis. Since you’re wondering, yes, the Falcons already have a win over the Wolverines this season.

In the WCHA, eighth seeded Michigan Tech stunned everyone this weekend by going to Colorado College and sweeping the Tigers out of the tournament and punching their ticket to the Final Five in St. Paul. If the Huskies are to create some magic of their own, their road is a bit tougher.

The deck is seemingly stacked against Michigan Tech, but if there’s a team and a fan base that can play the part of Maximus in “Gladiator” and win the crowd, it’s MTU. From their rabid fans to their iconic band, they’re a program that exemplifies what it is to be a part of college hockey. If college hockey were re-enacting “Revenge of the Nerds,” MTU would be Lambda Lambda Lambda and not just because their SAT scores are gigantic, they’re a lot of fun too.

Elsewhere in college hockey:

For all the fun and surprises the CCHA and WCHA tournaments provided, both the ECAC and Atlantic Hockey tournaments saw all their top seeded teams hold serve. In the ECAC semis, Union faces Colgate while Cornell faces arch-rival Harvard. The AHA semis see Air Force take on Mercyhurst while R.I.T. meets up with Niagara.

Hockey East, meanwhile, had a thrilling weekend that saw BU and New Hampshire as well as Merrimack and Maine go to three games, with BU and Maine coming out on top. Boston University did so by coming back from being down 4-1 to win in double-overtime 5-4. (Boston Hockey Blog, The Mack Report)

If you want to play the part of the NCAA committee and play with the different ways things could shake out over championship weekend, both USCHO and College Hockey News have Pairwise tools to mess with so you can play with fate.

The Division-III final four is set and this Oswego State alum is on pins and needles for the third year in a row. (NCAA)

Finally, congratulations to St. Lawrence coach Joe Marsh on his retirement from hockey after 26 seasons. College hockey loses a man with great class, dignity, and a much-respected tenure in the game. (INCH)

(Photo: Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune)

Same story, different location? Isles foil flat Flyers

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NEW YORK (AP) The New York Islanders distaste for the Philadelphia Flyers clearly came with them during their move to Brooklyn. Seeing their nemesis Wednesday night brought out some needed emotion.

“We needed a good, hard, physical game like that,” Casey Cizikas said after the Islanders beat the Flyers 3-1 in a rough-and-tumble affair.

“Those games are fun. When they get testy like that, when they get physical like that, that’s what makes the game of hockey so much fun. I think we thrived off of that.”

Jaroslav Halak made 17 saves and Kyle Okposo put the Islanders ahead early in the second period. Cizikas and Frans Nielsen also scored and the Islanders improved to 11-8-3 by snapping a two-game losing streak.

Steve Mason made 33 saves and Claude Giroux scored the Flyers’ lone goal.

Philadelphia has lost four of five and fell to 7-10-5.

“We’re just inconsistent. It’s the same story every game. We need to find a way to be consistent the whole game,” Giroux said. “I’m not too sure what to say. It’s the same story every game.”

The first of five meetings this season between Philadelphia and New York was a chippy one. There were post-whistle scrums seemingly after every whistle, and tempers boiled over in the second period when Nick Leddy fought Giroux.

Leddy had earned the Flyers’ ire in the first period after boarding Michael Raffl face first into the boards, but Giroux said his rationale for fighting was only partially inspired by wanting to get even for his teammate.

“The second period we were flat,” Giroux said. “Anytime you have a chance to change the momentum, you do it.”

Seven minutes after the Leddy-Giroux fight, Matt Martin squared off with Wayne Simmonds.

According to hockeyfights.com, New York had three fights this season prior to Wednesday night, and the Flyers had eight.

“It was two teams battling hard,” John Tavares said. “We’re going to have a lot of those games coming up.”

New York took a 2-1 lead 5:14 into the second period on Okposo’s fifth of the season. Tavares won an offensive-zone faceoff to begin the sequence, and Okposo gained possession of the puck along the wall, then curled toward the net before flipping a harmless-looking shot that appeared to ricochet off Nick Schultz and over Mason.

“There’s no room for error,” said Mason, adding that the puck “bounced off the side of the net” for the game-winning goal.

The teams traded goals in the first period and the long-time rivals went into the first intermission tied 1-1. Giroux opened the scoring with a power-play goal from the left circle 3:59 into the game, but Cizikas tied it with a short-handed goal with 58 seconds left in the period. It New York’s third short-handed tally this season.

New York’s penalty kill came into the game ranked 11th in the NHL, while Philadelphia’s power play was 24th.

“We have to look at everything,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said when asked if his team’s scheme needed to be modified in order to generate more offense. “(We) try to do that every day. So we have to look at everything.”

The Islanders outshot Philadelphia 36-18. New York had a 65-48 advantage in total shots.

“It was one of our better games defensively,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “We didn’t give them too much.”

NOTES: This game marked Colin McDonald’s season debut. The Flyers called up the ex-Islander from AHL Lehigh Valley on Tuesday. He had played in four games this season with the Phantoms, where he had two assists. … Philadelphia scratched Vincent Lecavalier, Evgeny Medvedev and Sam Gagner. Lecavalier has been scratched the last six games. The 35-year-old is in the third year of a five-year, $22.5 million contract. He has one assist in seven games this season. … New York scratched Adam Pelech and Taylor Beck. … The teams came into the match having split the last 16 matches. The Islanders were 8-8-0 while the Flyers were 8-3-5. … The announced attendance was 13,027.

Vatrano presence: Bruins edge Red Wings in overtime

Frank Vatrano David Krejci

The Boston Bruins keep flipping the script.

In Wednesday’s case, it swerved to a “Cinderella” story, as little-known forward Frank Vatrano scored two of Boston’s three goals – including the overtime clincher – as the B’s beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 (OT).

Here’s his first goal of the night:

While this is his overtime game-winner:

It wasn’t a perfect night for the 21-year-old, yet it may have been a convincing one.

The Bruins continue to begin a month on a sour note before ending up with impressive sprees.

October: 0-3-0 start, finished month with four straight wins and victories in six of seven contests.

November: 0-3-0 start, losses in four of five; currently on a four-game winning strek with victories in five of six.

Boston faces a challenge in closing this month out against the Rangers on Friday, and it’s possible that this trend may continue, as they begin December with a three-game road trip through Western Canada.

More than anything else, the safest bet with the Bruins is for ups and downs.

Crosby roars, Malkin scores in OT for Penguins win

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Controversy just seems to find the Pittsburgh Penguins. Credit Sidney Crosby & Co. for responding with a win on Wednesday.

Crosby generated two pretty goals, including this slam-dunk slapper:

… While Evgeni Malkin‘s overtime-winner stood as the Penguins managed a 4-3 overtime win against the St. Louis Blues tonight.

(You can see Malkin’s OT-clincher in the video above this post.)

Will this win and strong performance from Crosby silence murmurs about his relationship with Mario Lemieux? Probably not, yet it likely turns the volume down in some ways, including killing the “Is he struggling because of distractions” storyline.

You know, at least for a little while. Maybe.

Fight video: Claude Giroux vs. Nick Leddy


Claude Giroux isn’t the nastiest, most physical captain the Philadelphia Flyers have employed. Even so, he can be feisty at times.

Wednesday showed that, as he clearly wasn’t happy with an earlier Nick Leddy hit, and eventually got the New York Islanders defenseman to drop his gloves.

You can see the fight and the check that inspired that scrap in the video above.

It’s the fourth fight Giroux has been a part of, with his most recent adversary being may his most bitter rival.

Not a heavyweight bout between Giroux and Leddy, mind you, but sometimes it’s amusing to soak in such a rare sight.

Update: The fight may have inspired the Islanders more than the Flyers, as they bested Philly 3-1 on Wednesday.