Monday, March 22, 2010

NCAA Men’s Hockey Division III Championship

Walking down Main St in Lake Placid this weekend was a test to your fan loyalty. There were proud fathers sporting their son’s or daughter’s college-logo on their sweatshirt or jacket, anxious mom’s wondering if this game is where her son gets hurt, and clamorous younger siblings caught up in the hype. No, it’s not home-coming weekend on a nearby campus. It’s the NCAA College Hockey Tournament for Division III Colleges, and it’s played-out in the streets, restaurants, and Herb Brooks Arena here in Lake Placid.

The 1980 Rink Herb Brooks Arena (named after the Miracle on Ice coach) lived up again to it’s emotion-wrenching atmosphere Saturday evening as it hosted the semifinal, and Championship games.

Teams that made the trip to this “Final Four” Tournament were Norwich University (Northfield, Vt.), Saint Norbert University(De Pere, Wisc.), Plattsburgh State (NY) and Oswego State (NY). This is a fine representation of the “powerhouse” that the Div. III teams makeup.

The first battle Friday was between Plattsburgh State and Norwich which was a very tight game but our own Plattsburgh State lost to Norwich 3-2.

The second game of the day was between Oswego State and St Norbert. Again a tight, higher scoring game with many go-ahead goals that were quickly answered with tying goals. But Oswego St. fell short losing 4-3

So it came down to the final game Saturday evening, and as I scanned the fans filling the seats to capacity I could still see many Oswego State shirts, and Plattsburgh State hats on many fans. It’s evident that hockey fans hold loyal to their teams but when you get some great college hockey played locally you stick around the whole weekend.

Now growing up in Buffalo, NY and watching the Buffalo Sabres hockey, I’ve seen my share of emotional games on the ice (and on the football field, but that’s another story) but this championship game between returning Norwich University and St. Norbert has all the markings of a truly historic game.

It took two overtime periods to settle this game. Each overtime being 20 minutes, added an additional heart tugging to all the emotionally exhausted parents and fans in the seats.

With a close game during regulation periods, one could only imagine the emotions on the team benches. Both goalies were superb in net and a strong offense on both sides tested those goalies every period and each only allowed one goal in.

But soon, after 100 minutes of playing, the lengthy game took it’s toll on players and I could see them slowing down, but still hanging in there. Finally in the second overtime Norwich U. slipped the puck in to take the NCAA Div III Championship.

What a great game for a great hockey weekend. On that note I will mention how packed Lake Placid sidewalks were with hockey fans and players of all ages both Friday and Saturday. To top off the festivities of the weekend, there was a a stage set-up in the large parking lot in Lake Placid, where the Zambonis played music to a cold but large audience. Fireworks capped off the evening under cloudy, snow-threatening skies.

Photo Credit-NCAA Hockey-Wikipedia

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