NCAA Hockey Tournament Report, 1996 April 1

The end of March means one thing for college hockey fans: it's time for the Frozen Four, hockey's version of the NCAA Final Four. This year the place to be was Riverfront Colliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio. The first semifinal pitted a couple of regular season title-holders who's been upset in their conference semifinals, only to rebound in the NCAA regionals and advance to Cincinnati. Those were the Colorado College Tigers of the WCHA and the ECAC's own Vermont Catamounts. But the game would have to wait, as a cooling main on the rink broke, forcing a delay as well as a shutdown of the refrigeration unit. Once the game did start, the first period was a battle of goalies as Vermont's Tim Thomas and CC's Judd Lambert held each other's teams scoreless. Then the teams traded goals for the next period and a half, with Brian Swanson lighting the lamp for CC, followed by Vermont's Martin St. Louis, CC's Jay McNeill, St. Louis's linemate JC Ruid and Swanson again. With a mere 5 minutes remaining, we finally heard from a Catamount line other than St. Louis, Perrin and Ruid, as Phil Eboli hit the post, then the back of the net to tie the game at 3 and force overtime. With the ice progressively warming, Vermont also heated up after a game of catch-up and spent the first ten minutes on the attack, but to no avail. After coasting through the last ten minutes of the first overtime, the teams squared off for another period, this one scheduled at 10 minutes to give te crew another chance to work on the ice, which was now too warm for the Zamboni. They wouldn't need to, as nine and a half minutes into the second overtime, the game ended on a dubious play. Tiger forward McNeill, skating right to left across the top of the crease, clanged a shot off the crossbar, then smacked the puck down with his glove. The disk slid behind Vermont goalie Thomas to the right post, where CC's Chad Remackel shot it off of Thomas's back and into the net. UVM captain St. Louis protested, but the officials missed the hand pass and the goal was allowed to stand, giving Colorado College a 4-3 double-overtime victory and eliminating the last ECAC team from the tournament.

The late game, postponed 90 minutes to give the rink crew a chance to fix the deep-freeze, pitted the Michigan Wolverines, who had won the CCHA title by defeating Lake State, with whom they'd finished tied for first, in the championship game, against the defending national champion Boston University Terriers, who'd finished tops in Hockey East only to be knocked out of the conference semifinals by eventual conference champions Providence. This day the Wolverines had the defending champions' number, dominating the contest as Marty Turco stopped all 17 Terrier shots and Greg Crozier had two goals and Warren Luhning three assists in the 4-0 victory.

As the college hockey world waited for Saturday's CC-Michigan final, the first all-western title tilt since 1992, Friday saw the announcement of the Hobey Baker Award for the best college hockey player in the nation. This year's winner was Senior forward Brian Bonin of Minnesota, with BU's Jay Pandolfo finishing second in the balloting.

Michigan entered the final as heavy favorites, and led 1-0 after a defensive first period. Then CC came roaring back. After Luhning was called for slashing trying to thwart a Tiger breakaway (which Turco stymied anyway), CC's Peter Geronazzo tied the game on the ensuing power play. Things looked bad for Michigan after Colin Schmidt put Colorado College up 2-1 less than two minutes later, and the Wolverines then spent much of the second on the penalty kill. But Michigan managed to hang on and avoid the potentially deadly two-or-more-goal deficit, and Mike Legg tied the contest in the third, setting up another overtime. In overtime, a minor defensive lapse was turned into a chain reaction which culminated in Michigan's Brendan Morrison knocking home the winning goal at 3:35 to give the Wolverines the 3-2 overtime victory and the 1996 national championship, their eighth overall, but first since 1964.

With the final college hockey report of the season, this is Joe P------k, Mr. Squishy sports.

Last Modified: 1996 March 30
Joe Schlobotnik /