Upsets highlight Day 1 of men's hockey tourney
Three-seed Vermont came into Friday's East Regional trying to shed its only three-game losing streak of the season. The Catamounts dropped the regular-season finale to New Hampshire back on March 7 (6-5 in OT) and then followed that up with a pair of losses to UMass-Lowell in the Hockey East quarterfinals (4-3 in OT and 4-2).
All of those setbacks were at home, and the playoff series loss forced Vermont off the ice last weekend while the Hockey East championships were being played in Boston.
So Kevin Sneddon's club went back to practice in preparation for the NCAA tournament.
"We had some time to work on the little details that we obviously got away from the last couple weeks of the season," junior left wing Viktor Stalberg said.
Righting those wrongs was the trick.
Vermont came out flying against No. 2 seed Yale on Friday and posted an impressive 4-1 win over the Bulldogs at the Arena at Harbor Yard in front of building-record hockey crowd of 8,478.
Coupled with No. 4 Air Force's 2-0 victory over No. 1 Michigan earlier in the day, Vermont's win means both of the lower seeds will meet in Saturday's regional final (ESPNU, 6:30 p.m. ET) with a berth to the Frozen Four on the line.
"It's a big win for our program," Sneddon said. "We capitalized on our chances and I think that was the difference in the game. Most of the scoring chances we had our guys did a nice job of burying them.
"I told our guys in the locker room that was probably our best game of the year. Defensive intensity, the puck battles that we won, our back pressure. We made it difficult for Yale to create offense and that's their game."
After UVM (21-11-5) shut down Yale's power play (which went 0-for-7 for the game) late in the second period during a 5-on-3 kill, junior left wing Colin Vock scored a backbreaking goal at 19:01 to make it 3-0.
UVM made it 4-0 in the third before Yale scored a late goal at 18:15 to erase a possible shutout for freshman goaltender Rob Madore.
"This is a great win for our program that I'll enjoy at some other point and time," Sneddon said. "We've got work to do. Air Force impressed me, from what I saw. The blocked shots, the goaltending that they had; any team that can shut down that Michigan offense gets instant credibility with me."
Air Force and Vermont have met five previous times with the Catamounts winning all of them. The last matchup was back in 1992 when UVM swept a weekend series in Burlington.
The Falcons, who now have one NCAA win to their credit, will be trying to advance to the Frozen Four for the first time in school history while also becoming the first Atlantic Hockey school to reach the national semifinals.
Prior to Friday, Vermont's only other NCAA win in school history came in 1996 over Lake Superior State and it advanced the Catamounts to Cincinnati for the Frozen Four before they lost to Colorado College in double overtime.
In other NCAA action from Friday, another No. 1 seed went down in the West Regional that was played at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. No. 4 Miami (Ohio) skated past No. 1 Denver 4-2.
In the first three games played in this year's tournament there were three upsets, if you go by the seeds. Time will tell whether that trend will continue Saturday.