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)

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.