The term ‘March Madness’ is synonymous with the sport of collegiate basketball. However, it can also move away from the hardwood and onto the ice. Last weekend, teams from the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) and Atlantic Hockey Association (AHA) met to see who would move onto the quarterfinals in their respective conferences.
(7) Robert Morris Comes From Behind to Beat (10) Holy Cross
The Holy Cross Crusaders limped into the AHA tournament, losing their final five games of the regular season. However, they made things difficult for the favoured Robert Morris Colonials.
On the road in Pittsburgh, the Crusaders snatched game one with a 2-0 shutout and were one goal short of an upset after they forced game two into overtime. However, the Colonials’ Santeri Hartikainen scored just minutes into overtime to send the series to a third and final game. The Colonials were decisive in game three and clinched the series with a 4-1 win.
Daniel Mantenuto led the Colonials with a goal and three assists in the series, and Nick Jenny scored in each victory. Justin Kapelmaster was outstanding in goal for Robert Morris, making 107 saves in the three games.
(8) Bentley Blows by (9) Canisius
This was supposed to be the tightest of the first-round matchups, especially since the Canisius Golden Griffins swept the Bentley Falcons in January with wins in the shootout and 3-on-3 overtime. However, Bentley came into tournament hot, winning seven of their final ten games.
The Falcons rode that momentum into game one, where they lit up Canisius’ starting goaltender Jacob Barczewski for five goals in the first two periods before adding another in the third to win game one 6-1. The Falcons jumped out in front again in game two, but the Griffs erased a two-goal deficit and were tied with Bentley heading into the final minutes of the third.
However, a power-play goal from Jonathan Desbiens with less than 90 seconds to play and an empty-netter from Ryner Gorowsky helped the Falcons complete the weekend sweep.
Gorowsky scored a hat trick in game two, along with a goal in game one. Desbiens tallied three assists in game two, giving him four points on the weekend.
(6) Air Force Takes Care of (11) Mercyhurst
Though they finished below .500 during the regular season, the Air Force Falcons were feeling confident heading into their opening-round matchup against the Mercyhurst Lakers, not just because Mercyhurst finished last in the league but Air Force swept them in a weekend set just two weeks before.
It was a similar result over the weekend. Game one was not easy for the Falcons, as they came back from a first-period deficit to score three unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes and change to win 3-1. In game two, the Falcons jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening frame before coasting to a 5-1 win to complete the sweep.
Willie Riem led the Falcons with two goals and two assists in the series, extending his goal-scoring streak to three games. Defenceman Jake Levin chimed in with three assists, while Luke Manning scored a pair of goals in game two.
This weekend will see Bentley face the AHA’s best team in the regular season, the American International College Yellow Jackets. The second seed Sacred Heart Big Red will take on Robert Morris starting on Thursday, while the third seed RIT Tigers will meet Air Force on Friday, along with Army West Point and Niagara battling it out to make it to Atlantic Hockey’s Final Four in a best-of-three series.
(8) Colgate Takes Down (9) Brown
The Colgate Raiders took on the Brown Bears in the opening round. Despite being the lower seed, the Bears had the advantage with wins in both games against the Raiders in the regular season.
However, the Raiders made quick work of the Bears with a two-game sweep. Colgate took game one with the 3-0 win thanks to Mitch Benson’s second shutout of the season. Game two was a little more interesting, as Brown went up early in the first before Colgate bounced back with a pair before the end of the frame to take the lead.
The Bears tied the game late in regulation before senior forward Tyler Penner scored his fifth goal of the season late in the first overtime period to send the Raiders to the quarterfinals.
Colton Young was the lone Raider to register more than one point during the series, with a pair of assists. Benson stopped 51 of 53 shots.
(7) Yale Survives and Advances Against (10) Union
In a series that, on paper, looked one-sided, the three-game series between the Yale Bulldogs and 10th-seed Union Dutchmen was a battle. Yale took both games against Union during the regular season, but the Dutchmen won game one at Ingalls Rink, 3-0.
The Bulldogs picked up the 4-1 win in game two to force a deciding game three when the Bulldogs came back from an early deficit to win 2-1 in double overtime thanks to Graham Lillibridge’s first goal of the season.
Bruins’ prospect Curtis Hall scored a pair of goals in game two, and Phil Kemp picked up a goal and an assist in Yale’s 4-1 win on Saturday.
(5) Harvard Sweeps by (12) St. Lawrence
The highest seed in the first round of the conference tournament, the Harvard Crimson, took on the St. Lawrence Saints, the team that finished at the bottom of the ECAC standings.
The Saints hung in with the Crimson in game one, tying the game at three in the third period. However, goals from Winnipeg Jets prospect Austin Wong and Vancouver Canucks 2017 Draft pick Jack Rathbone helped Harvard to a 5-3 win. The Crimson completed the sweep with a convincing 7-1 win on Saturday night.
Harvard’s leading goal scorer Jack Drury led the Crimson with two goals and three assists on the weekend while New Jersey Devils prospect Reilly Walsh was behind him with two goals and two assists.
(11) Princeton Upsets (6) Dartmouth
During the 2019-20 regular season, the Princeton Tigers only won 4 of 29 games, including a single win in their last ten games.
Their opponents were the Big Green of Dartmouth College, a team that swept Princeton during the regular season. The Big Green led game one into the dying minutes of the third period before Finn Evans sent the game into overtime. Reid Yochim scored his second of the season early in the extra frame to take game one.
The Tigers took a commanding 3-0 lead in game two and led 4-1 through 50 minutes. However, the Big Green mounted a crazy comeback that ended with Matt Baker tying the game with 2.3 seconds on the clock.
The first overtime solved nothing, but just passed the halfway mark of the second overtime, Mark Paolini completed the sweep, sending the Tigers to the quarterfinals.
With the Coronavirus Crisis forcing the Ivy League to shut down their men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, a couple of the ECAC Ivy League teams have followed suit. Harvard was supposed to travel to Rhode Island to take on the RPI Engineers in front of an empty arena, but the school has forced the team to forefit as of Wednesday afternoon.
Just hours after the Crimson pulled out, Yale did as well. This forced the ECAC to re-seed the tournament with only six teams.
The top two seeds, the Cornell Big Red and Clarkson Golden Knights, will get a bye directly to the semifinals. The third seed, the Qunnipiac Tigers, will meet with Princeton, along with RPI now hosting Colgate. Both best-of-three series will begin on Friday the 13th.