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Villanova beats buzzer, North Carolina for NCAA title

04.04.16 at 11:58 pm ET
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HOUSTON — North Carolina and Villanova reached the national championship game Monday night at NRG Stadium largely because they can shoot the ball better than most. So it turns out that in a game that had “shootout” written all over it, a shootout is precisely what happened.

Kris Jenkins, plagued by foul trouble early in the game, hit a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired, giving Villanova a 77-74 victory over the Tar Heels. For the Wildcats, it is their second national title in school history, and their first since a 1985 win over Georgetown.

“That was one of the great college basketball games we’ve ever been a part of,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “We didn’t just beat a great team, which this team is, but a great program, a classy program.

“Before they determined that shot was good, Roy [Williams] came right up to me and said, ‘I’m really disappointed for our guys, that was a great game, but I’m really happy for you.’ ”

Jenkins’ shot overshadowed an incredible game-tying heave from UNC guard Marcus Paige seconds earlier, as Paige managed to connect on a 25-foot double-clutch of a prayer from the right flank for 3, sending the crowd into a frenzy. But the real frenzy was still 4.7 seconds away.

After a timeout to call the play, Jenkins inbounded the ball to Ryan Arcidiacano, who dribbled it up and then dished it off to the trailing Jenkins. The 6-foot-6 junior then shot himself into certain “One Shining Moment” fame, delivering a deep trey as the final buzzer sounded to give Villanova the victory.

“It was what we do every single day in practice,” Arcidiacono explained. “Daniel [Ochefu] set the screen for me because they let the ball come in. Kris did a great job of sprinting to the play, Once I heard him there, I just flipped it to him.”

And Jenkins, with his shot turned into history, added, “This team, we gave it all we had. Today we were just, you know, lucky to hit the shot at the end.”

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Villanova wins big for Big East, advances to title game against North Carolina

04.02.16 at 11:27 pm ET
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HOUSTON — Providence fans know Villanova has an offense. And what the Wildcats did to Oklahoma in the national semifinals Saturday night certainly could be described as offensive.

Having lost to Villanova in the Big East Tournament semifinals 76-68, and having dropped seven of their last eight overall to the ‘Cats, the Friars know all too well what the ‘Cats are capable of doing to an opponent. When they’re on, they’re hard to beat, as Oklahoma found out in a stunning 95-51 loss at NRG Stadium that puts Villanova into Monday’s title game against North Carolina (an 83-66 winner over Syracuse in the nightcap).

“We own that. We’re not shying away from that,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said after the carnage had ended. “Villanova was great. They played great. We didn’t. So it was a combination of the two.”

With a performance reminiscent of their near-perfect play in the 1985 championship win over Georgetown, Villanova scorched the Sooners for 66.7 percent shooting (18-for-27) from the floor in the first half and raced to a 42-28 advantage. It wasn’t just the offense that performed impressively, however.

The Wildcats defense covered Oklahoma like cream gravy on Texas Toast, forcing the Sooners into nine first-half turnovers, with five of those coming on consecutive possessions that broke open a one-point game. Several defenders limited OU All-American Buddy Hield to seven first-half points on 3-for-8 shooting, with just one 3-pointer, and he finished the game with only nine points altogether.

“We tried to keep fresh bodies on him, tried to make him take tough, contested shots,” said Villanova senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono. “It just happened he didn’t make them tonight. We’ve seen him when he’s knocking them down from everywhere.”

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Reports: UMass hires St. Lawrence’s Greg Carvel as new hockey coach

03.29.16 at 1:04 pm ET
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UMass has hired St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel as its new head hockey coach, according to multiple reports. ESPN’s John Buccigross was the first to report the news.

The 45-year-old Carvel took over as the head coach at his alma mater in 2012 and led St. Lawrence to a 72-63-15 record over four seasons. He previously served as an assistant coach for the Anaheim Ducks and Ottawa Senators and went to the Stanley Cup final with both. Carvel was also an assistant coach for Team USA at the 2015 World Championships.

The Saints had a winning record in three of Carvel’s four seasons and reached the ECAC semifinals each of the last two, but did not get to the NCAA tournament during his tenure. At the risk of getting too analytical, his teams were generally average to below-average possession teams that had high shooting percentages for his first three years and great goaltending from Kyle Hayton the last two.

UMass fired John Micheletto on March 6 after going 8-24-4 and finishing last in Hockey East for the second year in a row.

NCAA hockey tourney: Bad 2nd period dooms UMass Lowell in loss to Quinnipiac; Frozen Four field set

03.27.16 at 10:11 pm ET
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A disastrous second period doomed UMass Lowell, as it lost 4-1 to Quinnipiac in Sunday’s East Regional final in Albany. The River Hawks led 1-0 after one thanks to a Dylan Zink power-play goal, but then Quinnipiac scored three straight in the second and outshot Lowell 13-4 in the frame.

Quinnipiac turned the 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead with a pair of goals 1:38 apart midway through the second. Landon Smith took advantage of a Michael Kapla misplay on a bouncing puck and fired a shot blocker-side from the high slot. Then Sam Anas finished off a two-on-one with a nifty backhand flip over Kevin Boyle’s right arm.

Zink had a great chance to tie the game with 4:35 left in the second when he took off on a breakaway after leaving the penalty box, but Garteig made a big blocker save. A little over two minutes later, the Bobcats made it 3-1 when Scott Davidson beat Boyle over the glove from a seemingly impossible angle. Travis St. Denis added the fourth goal with 3:54 left in the game when he picked off a breakout pass and beat Boyle from in close.

Defensive miscues and suspect goaltending were the culprits on Quinnipiac’s goals, but the River Hawks also struggled mightily to generate offense all game. They had very little sustained offensive zone time and got outshot 35-15 in the game.

Quinnipiac will now face Boston College in the first Frozen Four game at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, in Tampa.

The River Hawks were looking to make the Frozen Four for the second time in four years. Their exit leaves BC as the only one of Hockey East’s six NCAA tournament teams to make it to Tampa.

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– Bruins prospect Danton Heinen had a goal and two assists as Denver beat Ferris State 6-3 in the West Regional final to advance to the Frozen Four for the first time since the Pioneers won back-to-back national titles in 2004 and 2005. Heinen opened the scoring with a power-play goal 5:34 into the game, assisted on Denver’s second goal, and then set up Blake Hillman with 4:32 left in the game to break a 3-3 tie. Heinen now has an 18-game point streak with 14 goals and 20 assists during that span. Denver will face North Dakota in the second national semifinal at 8:30 p.m. on April 7.

NCAA hockey tourney: BC holds off late Minnesota-Duluth comeback, advances to Frozen Four

03.26.16 at 11:45 pm ET
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WORCESTER — Saturday night’s Northeast Regional final wound up being a lot less comfortable than it probably should have been, but Boston College held on for a 3-2 win over Minnesota-Duluth to advance to its 12th Frozen Four in the last 19 years.

The Eagles led 3-0 with under eight minutes to go and had been controlling play for long stretches of the game, but then the Bulldogs scored two goals in three minutes to cut BC’s lead to 3-2 with 4:26 to go. Things continued to get hairy when a Miles Wood penalty sent UMD to the power play with 39 seconds to go.

The Bulldogs came within inches of tying the game in the closing seconds, but Austin Cangelosi whacked the puck off the goal line to send the Eagles to Tampa, where they’ll face the winner of Sunday’s East Regional final between Quinnipiac and UMass Lowell in the national semifinals on April 7.

Senior captain Teddy Doherty scored twice for the Eagles and Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald scored what proved to be the game-winner 6:35 into the third period.

The Eagles entered the NCAA tournament having lost three of five, raising at least a little bit of concern over whether they’d be able to get back to playing the way they’re capable of playing in time to make a Frozen Four run. They beat Harvard 4-1 on Friday and then appeared to be well on their way to another dominant win Saturday before UMD mounted its late comeback bid.

Regardless of how close the game turned out, the Eagles will gladly celebrate the win and move on to Tampa. BC will be looking to win its fifth national championship in the last 16 years. It last won it all in 2012 — in Tampa, interestingly enough.

“The Frozen Four is an objective for us. Every year when I have been at BC I have always thought, let’s get to that Frozen Four,” said BC coach Jerry York. “And the more you get there, the more opportunities you have to collect some hardware. It’s hard to go once and win it once. It is hard to go twice and win it twice, but when you start going a number of times, you are going to win a lot of trophies. We have always had excellent teams and excellent players to bring with us to the regionals to get us to the Frozen Four, and this year is just the same. I think we have a whole locker room full of guys that have played hockey the right way, and they are very talented, they are very skilled and a hard-working club.”

BC struggled to create offense and spent a lot of time in its own zone through the first 12-13 minutes, but Thatcher Demko made a couple big saves to keep the game 0-0. Then the Eagles broke through with 5:54 left in the first when Doherty took a pass from Adam Gilmour and took a shot from the left circle that went off Kasimir Kaskisuo’s glove and trickled over the line.

Doherty scored again 2:52 into the second to double the Eagles’ lead. Chris Calnan made a nice pass out of the corner to find Zach Sanford in the slot, and although Sanford had his stick tied up, he was able to direct the puck to Doherty on the doorstep for the finish.

“It’s great, but I really wanted to go to Tampa,” Doherty said when asked about scoring twice. “Just to extend the season by two weeks, being able to practice in Conte Forum again is something that I value way more than the two goals. Maybe in a few years, I’ll look back at it, but right now, in the moment, getting to Tampa was the team’s main objective since day one and we’re lucky we get to practice in Conte for another week and a half here.”

The Eagles controlled the game for long periods of time after that, as they continued to play hard and gave UMD only a few good looks at the net over the next 25 or so minutes before the Bulldogs finally broke through.

Fitzgerald added BC’s third goal on a power play 6:35 into the third when he made a nice toe drag around a defenseman and fired a shot into the top corner. It was Fitzgerald’s team-leading 23rd goal of the season.

UMD’s Austin Farley scored a power-play goal with 7:11 left in the game to start the comeback bid, and Karson Kuhlman cut it to 3-2 with 4:26 to go.

This is how close the Bulldogs came to tying it in the final seconds:

NCAA hockey tourney: Lowell beats Yale in overtime; BU gets crushed by Denver

03.26.16 at 10:45 pm ET
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UMass Lowell will play for a chance to reach its second Frozen Four in four years. The River Hawks beat Yale 3-2 in overtime in Saturday’s NCAA tournament opener in the East Regional in Albany and will now take on Quinnipiac in the regional final Sunday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

Joe Gambardella was the hero for Lowell, as the junior forward scored both the tying and winning goals. He tied the game at 2-2 with 13:48 left in regulation when a nice rush by him and C.J. Smith ended with him knocking home a loose puck in the crease. Then he ended it 1:37 into overtime when he took advantage of a Yale turnover and fired a shot past Alex Lyon.

The River Hawks’ Michael Fallon opened the scoring 4:27 into the game, but then Yale got goals from Frankie DiChiara late in the first and Ryan Hitchcock midway through the second to build up the 2-1 lead. Lowell goalie Kevin Boyle made 35 saves in the win.

– The hope for Boston University was that it would be able to regroup during its week off after getting swept by UMass Lowell in the Hockey East quarterfinals and come back strong to start the NCAA tournament. That 100 percent did not happen, as the Terriers suffered a 7-2 demolition at the hands of Denver in the opening round of the West Regional in St. Paul.

The Terriers failed to convert on two early power plays and things quickly went downhill from there. Blake Hillman and Dylan Gambrell scored late in the first to make it 2-0 Denver, then Will Butcher and Matt Marcinew scored early in the second to put the game well out of reach. The Pioneers eventually pushed it to 6-0 before BU finally got on the board. Bruins prospect Danton Heinen had three assists for Denver and now has 31 points (13 goals, 18 assists) during a 17-game point streak.

Heinen and the Pioneers will face Ferris State in the regional final Sunday at 5 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

– North Dakota became the first team to punch its ticket to the Frozen Four, as the Fighting Hawks beat Michigan 5-2 in the Midwest Regional final in Cincinnati. This will be North Dakota’s 11th Frozen Four appearance in the last 20 years. It last reached the national championship game in 2005 and last won it all in 2000.

NCAA hockey tourney: BC tops Harvard to advance to Northeast Regional final

03.25.16 at 11:37 pm ET
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WORCESTER — Leave it to Boston College to salvage an otherwise rough day for Hockey East. After Northeastern, Providence and Notre Dame all lost earlier on Friday, the second-seeded Eagles beat third-seeded Harvard 4-1 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

BC will face Minnesota-Duluth, who knocked off top-seeded Providence in double overtime, in Saturday night’s Northeast Regional final. The Eagles will be looking to reach the Frozen Four for the 12th time in the last 19 years.

The win was something of a righting of the ship for the Eagles, who struggled a bit in the Hockey East tournament. They barely squeaked by Vermont in the quarterfinals (they needed overtime in a decisive Game 3) and then lost to Northeastern in the semifinals last week. Friday marked the Eagles’ second win over Harvard this season, as they also beat the Crimson 3-2 in the opening round of the Beanpot back on Feb. 1.

For Harvard, Friday’s loss was its seventh straight one-and-done in the NCAA tournament dating back to 2002. The Crimson’s last NCAA tournament victory came in 1994.

BC opened the scoring 7:59 into the game when Alex Tuch eventually scored during a chaotic scramble in the crease. The play was reviewed, and Tuch clearly made contact with Harvard goalie Merrick Madsen, but the goal was upheld, presumably because Tuch had been pushed into Madsen by a Harvard player.

Harvard’s Ryan Donato, a Bruins prospect, nearly tied the game eight minutes later when he deked out BC goalie Thatcher Demko and tried to tuck the puck inside the post, but he couldn’t quite get there and put it off the side of the net instead.

The Eagles then made it 2-0 on a power-play goal with 1:02 left in the first. Miles Wood led the rush into the zone, had a centering pass blocked, got the puck back, circled around the net, wheeled into the high slot and then found Austin Cangelosi at the doorstep for an easy tap-in.

The Crimson had another just-miss in the closing seconds of the period when Kyle Criscuolo took a carom off the end boards and put it off the post. The puck then bounced around in the crease, and Jimmy Vesey was right there, but it somehow stayed out.

While Harvard struggled to bury its chances, the Eagles continued to capitalize on theirs. Tuch scored his second of the game to make it 3-0 early in the second when he streaked down the left wing and fired a shot high glove.

Harvard finally got on the board with 10:10 left in the second when Seb Lloyd took a pass from Jake Horton and flipped a shot over Thatcher Demko’s glove. The Crimson continued to pressure after that goal and controlled play a bit, but couldn’t score again before the end of the period. BC had the last chance of the period, nearly making it 4-1 when Colin White streaked in alone in the closing seconds, but Madsen came up with a big save.

The Crimson struggled to generate grade-A chances in the third as they attempted to come back. They pulled the goalie on a power play with 4:18 to go still trailing by two, but BC took advantage of a turnover and Cangelosi scored on the empty net to seal the victory.

NCAA hockey tourney: Providence loses to Minnesota-Duluth in 2OT; Northeastern falls to North Dakota

03.25.16 at 8:20 pm ET
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WORCESTER — For the second Friday night in a row, Providence played a multiple overtime game. And for the second week in a row, the Friars suffered a devastating loss. One week after losing to UMass Lowell in the Hockey East semifinals in triple overtime, they had their season and national title defense end with a 2-1 double overtime loss to Minnesota-Duluth in Friday night’s NCAA tournament opener.

After no one scored in the first extra period, UMD’s Karson Kuhlman scored the game-winner 57 seconds into the second overtime when he poked a rebound over the line. The Bulldogs will face the winner of Friday night’s Boston College vs. Harvard game in Saturday night’s Northeast Regional final.

The Friars nearly ended it a little over four minutes into the first overtime when Nick Saracino took a pass on the rush and rang a shot off the crossbar. UMD started to take control as the first overtime wore on and had some long offensive zone possessions in the final five minutes of the period, but Nick Ellis — who made 52 saves in the game — stood tall and the Friars hung on until the intermission.

The game was 0-0 through two periods, but then UMD’s Tony Cameranesi scored 3:18 into the third on a slap shot from the right boards that Ellis probably should’ve stopped. It seemed like that one slip-up might be all it took to end Providence’s national title defense given that the Friars had gone more than 150 minutes without scoring a goal stretching back to last Friday triple overtime loss to UMass Lowell in the Hockey East semifinals.

But the Friars finally snapped their goal drought four minutes later on a bit of a broken play. Ryan Tait’s shot off the rush was partially blocked, but it bounced right to Steven McParland in front, and he whacked it past Kasimir Kaskisuo to tie the game at one.

Ellis atoned for the Cameranesi goal with some great goaltending down the stretch. He made a highlight-reel sprawling save on a Kyle Osterberg chance from right in front, then made several big stops on two late UMD power plays.

With just under four minutes left in regulation the teams traded breakaway chances, with Kaskisuo stoning Saracino and then Ellis robbing Austin Farley less than 10 seconds later.

After not having any good chances in the first period, the Friars got a great look 1:50 into the second period when Brandon Tanev’s forecheck forced a turnover that popped out to Saracino alone in the slot. Saracino fired wide, though.

A potential turning point came 3:24 into the second when Providence’s Conor MacPhee was ejected for a hit to the head on Osterberg, giving UMD a five-minute power play. However, UMD took a penalty of its own 1:02 into that power play when Dominic Toninato interfered with Tanev. Neither team did anything on the ensuing four-on-four, and the Friars were able to kill off the remainder of MacPhee’s major once Toninato’s penalty expired.

The Friars killed another penalty midway through the second, then finally started to create a little bit of offense toward the end of the period. Erik Foley found Tom Parisi in the slot with just over two minutes left in the frame, but Kaskisuo made the save. More offensive zone time led to Providence’s first power play with 1:39 left in the period, but like the Bulldogs, the Friars couldn’t cash in on the man advantage.

UMD had more zone time in the first period, but neither team was able to generate much in the way of quality scoring chances. The best opportunity came with 2:36 left in the period when UMD’s Karson Kuhlman cut across the crease after driving wide, but Ellis held his ground and made the save.

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– Northeastern’s dream season came to an end with a 6-2 loss to top-seeded North Dakota in the opening round of the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati. Nolan Stevens gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead 3:07 into the game with his team-leading 20th goal of the season, but then North Dakota scored five straight goals over the next 24 minutes of game action to take a commanding 5-1 lead and put the game out of reach.

The loss ends the Huskies’ remarkable second-half run, which saw them overcome a 1-11-2 start to go 20-1-2 from Dec. 19 through the Hockey East tournament, culminating in their first Hockey East championship since 1988 and first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009.

Reports: Notre Dame leaving Hockey East for Big Ten

03.22.16 at 8:58 pm ET
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The Notre Dame-in-Hockey East experiment was short-lived. The Fighting Irish will be leaving the league to join the Big Ten after the 2016-17 season, according to multiple reports.

Notre Dame joined Hockey East in 2013 after the CCHA was disbanded. It reached the Hockey East semifinals at TD Garden in its first season in the league and reached the NCAA tournament in two of its three years as a Hockey East member, including this season.

Notre Dame will become the Big Ten’s first affiliate member in hockey, as the conference previously had a policy against affiliate members in any sport. However, it recently ended that precedent by adding Johns Hopkins as an affiliate member in men’s lacrosse.

Hockey East, meanwhile, will return to an all-New England league with Notre Dame’s departure. While the Fighting Irish certainly had their perks — they’re a name brand, they’re a strong program, and they have their own TV deal with NBC that led to more TV games for the rest of Hockey East — many fans around the league consistently lamented having a member from outside New England.

There had been plenty of rumors that Notre Dame was never truly happy in Hockey East, due mostly to having to travel much more than the other 11 teams, so this news isn’t a total shock. Moving to the Big Ten will reunite the program with former CCHA rivals Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State.

According to College Hockey News, Notre Dame will owe Hockey East $250,000 as an exit fee, in addition to what it still owes on its entrance fee.

The big question from a Hockey East perspective now becomes whether the league will fill Notre Dame’s spot and stay at 12 teams, and if it does, who will be the newcomer? Quinnipiac and Holy Cross are sure to come up (and already have, to be honest), as both would make sense. Quinnipiac would instantly add another national championship-caliber program, while Holy Cross would need to go through a build-up process similar to the one UConn is currently going through.

8 New England teams make NCAA hockey tournament; Bracket set

03.20.16 at 12:32 pm ET
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For the first time ever, Hockey East will send six teams to the NCAA tournament. And for the first time ever, all four Beanpot teams are in the field.

Hockey East was already guaranteed five teams before Saturday night’s conference championship game, and then Northeastern’s win over UMass Lowell made it six. As it turns out, the Huskies would’ve gotten an at-large berth even if they had lost to the River Hawks.

Hockey East regular season co-champions Providence and Boston College will both be in the Northeast Regional in Worcester. Here is the complete bracket and schedule:

Northeast Regional (Worcester)
1. Providence vs. 4. Minnesota-Duluth (Friday, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
2. Boston College vs. 3. Harvard (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
Regional final Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPNU

East Regional (Albany, New York)
1. Quinnipiac vs. 4. Rochester Institute of Technology (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
2. UMass Lowell vs. 3. Yale (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3)
Regional final Sunday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU

Midwest Regional (Cincinnati, Ohio)
1. North Dakota vs. 4. Northeastern (Friday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
2. Michigan vs. 3. Notre Dame (Friday, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
Regional final Saturday at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2

West Regional (St. Paul, Minnesota)
1. St. Cloud State vs. 4. Ferris State (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, ESPNews)
2. Denver vs. 3. Boston University (Saturday, 6:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU)
Regional final Sunday at 5 p.m. ET on ESPNU

The winners of each regional advance to the Frozen Four in Tampa, Florida, which begins on April 7.

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