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Geoffrion Named Regional MVP; Leads Wisconsin To Frozen Four

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
Predators prospects Blake Geoffrion and Craig Smith combined for five points as Wisconsin beat fellow WCHA power St. Cloud State 5-3 in the West Regional Final on Saturday night to advance to the Frozen Four. Geoffrion posted a goal and two assists to finish with two goals and five points in the two games during Regional play, earning West Regional Most Outstanding Player honors. Smith, a freshman, picked up two assists in the game, both in the first period to help the Badgers claim an early lead.

Wisconsin (27-10-4) will face RIT (28-11-1) in the national semifinals in Detroit on April 8. The Badgers will be making their 11th Frozen Four appearance in program history.

Wisconsin also got two goals from John Mitchell, as well as a goal and an assist from defenseman Jake Gardiner to win the sixth meeting between the teams this season.

The Badgers led 4-2 late in the third period, but St. Cloud (24-14-5) made it a one-goal game when Tony Mosey beat goaltender Scott Gudmandson with 2:50 remaining. But Aaron Bendickson hit the empty net with 1:08 remaining to seal the victory.

The Badgers took an early lead when Mitchell scored 2:31 into the game. Geoffrion made it 2-0 when he scored his 27th goal of the season off a rebound from Ryan McDonagh's shot at 13:18.

St. Cloud cut the lead in half 90 seconds later as Jared Festler scored on assists from Ryan Lasch and Aaron Marvin. But the Badgers regained a two-goal lead when Gardiner buried a rebound at 15:21.

After a scoreless second period. Festler scored a shorthanded goal at 4:16 of the third, banging in his own rebound after a turnover to make it a one-goal game. But Mitchell got his second of the night at 6:54, burying his own rebound for a 4-2 lead.

East Regional

RIT, which didn't become a Division I team until 2005, advanced to the Frozen Four for the first time by routing New Hampshire 6-2 on Saturday to win the NCAA East Regional in Albany, N.Y.

Tyler Brenner scored twice as the Tigers, seeded last in the East and 15th in the 16-team field, rolled over the Wildcats one night after stunning Denver, the top seed in the region and No. 2 in the tournament.

Goalie Jared DeMichiel, the star of the victory over Denver with 39 saves, faced only 26 shots as the Tigers, who got into the tournament by winning the Atlantic Hockey championship, blew the game open with three goals in 94 seconds in the second period.

Brenner broke a 1-1 tie when he scored at 13:23 of the middle period, and Brent Alexin capitalized on a turnover to score an unassisted goal 13 seconds later. Steve Matic banged in the rebound of a shot by Sean Murphy at 14:57 as the Tigers outshot UNH 18-6 in the middle period.

Brenner got his second of the game midway through the third period. Blake Kessel got one back for UNH at 17:31, but after the Wildcats pulled goaltender Brian Foster, Tyler Mazzei hit the empty net to seal the biggest win in school history.

RIT will take a 28-11-1 record to Detroit. New Hampshire, the regular-season champions of Hockey East, finished 18-14-7.

Northeast Regional

Pat Mullane's goal 3:46 into the third period broke a 1-1 tie and Matt Price was awarded a goal when he was hauled down breaking toward an empty net with 12 seconds left, lifting Boston College to a 3-1 win over Alaska-Fairbanks in the Northeast semifinals in Worcester, Mass.

Matt Lombardi scored a shorthanded goal in the first period for the top-seeded Eagles (26-10-3), who will face Yale, a 3-2 winner over North Dakota, on Sunday for a spot in the Frozen Four. Andy Taranto tied it late in the second for Alaska-Fairbanks (18-12-9), which made its NCAA tournament debut.

Boston College, the Hockey East tournament champion, improved to 9-0 in first-round NCAA tournament games in Worcester. The Eagles are seeking their third NCAA title since 2001.

Eagles goalie John Muse made 28 saves -- and caught a break when Dustin Sather hit the crossbar with just over 2 minutes to play.

"We had all we could handle," Boston College coach Jerry York said. "I don't think I've ever been in an NCAA tournament game where the games aren't difficult."

For most of the game, the Nanooks kept BC's high-flying offense in check.

"I think the game from our standpoint was where we wanted it," Alaska coach Dallas Ferguson said. "We didn't want it to be 7-6, 8-6."

It was the farthest East the Nanooks have played since traveling to Elmira, N.Y., in 1993.
"I'm so proud of the way we competed, being our first time in the tournament," Ferguson said.

In the second game, surprise starter Ryan Rondeau survived a third-period rally by North Dakota for his first win since Oct. 31 as Yale upset the Fighting Sioux.

Yale led 3-0 after two periods, but North Dakota outshot the Bulldogs 18-5 in the third period and got goals from Brett Hextall and Matt Frattin in the first 5:58. But Yale did a much better job of limiting North Dakota's chances in the final 10 minutes. Frattin had the best chance to tie it up, with just under six minutes to play when Rondeau got his pad on a shot from the right circle, and Frattin slid the rebound just outside the right post.

Yale grabbed the lead at 5:48 of the first period when a slap shot from the left point by Tom Dignard was deflected by Denny Kearney in the slot and popped slowly up in the air. The puck’s arcing trajectory carried it over the left shoulder of goaltender Brad Eidsness, who was well out of the net to challenge the initial shot and couldn't get back before the shot tucked in just under the crossbar.

Kearney made it 2-0 at 12:49 of the second period, finishing off a 2-on-1 break by cutting to the center and faking a move to go around Eidsness, then pulling the puck back to the left post and sliding a backhander into the vacated net.

UND had a chance to get on the board when Darcy Zajac was awarded a penalty shot at 15:48 after being hauled down by Yale's Ryan Donald. His shot beat Rondeau but rang off the left post. Marc Arcobello made it 3-0 two minutes later when he picked up his own rebound off the end boards and lifted it into the net.

Midwest Regional

Miami of Ohio, the top seed in the tournament, got all it could handle from the underdog Chargers, but Curtis McKenzie and Cameron Schilling scored power-play goals to give the RedHawks a 2-1 victory in the first semifinal in Fort Wayne, Ind.

The RedHawks will face Michigan, a 5-1 winner over Bemidji State, in Sunday's regional final.

Miami, which lost the national championship game to Boston University last spring, dominated play but was able to beat Cameron Talbot only twice despite outshooting UAH 38-17 and getting nine power plays to five for the Chargers (12-18-3).

Alabama-Huntsville cut the RedHawks' lead to one goal when Brennan Barker scored a power-play goal with 38 seconds left, just seconds after Talbot left for an extra attacker.

McKenzie, who also had an assist, scored the first goal midway through the first period, firing in a pass by Carter Camper from behind the net. Schilling made it 2-0 early in the second period when he partially fanned on a shot out front. The puck popped up, hit Talbot in the glove and fell into the net.

While Talbot kept his team in the game, the RedHawks (28-7-7) limited Alabama-Huntsville to a handful of good scoring chances. Miami goalie Cody Reichard's best save was a skate stop on a shot by UAH defenseman Ryan Burkholder midway through the second period.

In the second game, perennial power Michigan, which needed a late-season surge to qualify for an NCAA-record 20th consecutive tournament, rolled into the regional final by whipping Bemidji State -- last year's surprise Frozen Four qualifier.

The Wolverines' reward is another game with CCHA rival Miami of Ohio, Michigan beat the top-seeded RedHawks 5-2 last Saturday en route to winning the conference tournament and their NCAA berth.

"That's the hottest team in the country and it might be the best team in the country right now," Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore said of the Wolverines.

Luke Glendening scored in the first period and Louie Caporusso in the second to give Michigan a 2-0 lead after two periods. Bemidji State cut the margin to one with 9:36 left in regulation when Ian Lowe scored a power-play goal with a slap shot off of a crisp cross-ice feed from Matt Read.

But the Wolverines (26-17-1) regained their two-goal lead two minutes later when Carl Hagelin finished a 2-on-1 break with a point-blank slap shot past Cougars goaltender Dan Bakala off a feed from Kevin Lynch.

"The momentum was about to change," Berenson said. "That was an important comeback goal that really kept the momentum on our side."

Hagelin slid a shorthanded goal past Bakala with 3:57 remaining and Brian Lebler hit the empty net with 1:58 to play.

Now it's another meeting with the RedHawks -- with a trip to the Frozen Four on the line.

"They're the team to beat," Berenson said. "They're the No. 1 seed here. We know we'll have our hands full."

Material from wire services and college media was used in this report.
Author: John Kreiser | Columnist
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