No protests against Bemidji State, Huntsville at Midwest Regional
The fire storm of protests that were expected from having two teams in the NCAA tournament from the College Hockey America conference were not in evidence at the Midwest Regional in Fort Wayne Friday as teams prepared for the opening round games.
Bemidji State advanced to the NCAA as an at-large bid for the first time ever. After BSU slipped up in the CHA playoffs and lost in the first round, the University of Alabama-Huntsville went on a run to win the tournament and gain the league's auto-bid to the NCAA tournament.
That meant the four team CHA had 50 percent of its teams in the Big Skate.
No one was talking about teams not belonging in the tournament during the team press conferences. In fact, quite the opposite was in evidence.
Michigan head coach Red Berenson talked a great deal about how there would be no surprises in the regional this year. Bemidji State may have snuck up on some teams last year, he said, but not this year. The college hockey world knows BSU is a legitimate contending team, he said.
Berenson went so far to say that if BSU defeats Michigan tonight, it would be no surprise.
Miami head Enrico Blasi talked about Alabama-Huntsville and how their goalie Cameron Talbot is fully capable of controlling a game. Blasi said Miami knows it will have to play very well in order to defeat the Chargers.
So, that was the word from this corner of the college hockey world. No surprises or Cinderella stories in the NCAA tournament this year. It was unanimous consent that the teams who advanced to the national tournament belong there.
More than one person commented on the intensity of BSU's practice on Friday. Some of the teams, it seems, used Friday's practice for a light skate and a time to get acclimated to the ice surface.
The Beavers hit the ice in typical fashion, going full speed.
There was nothing unusual in that approach, BSU head coach Tom Serratore reported. "That's a usual Thursday practice for us," Serratore told the assembled media at the post practice press conference. "The players know what to expect; we didn't change a thing. We got ready for Michigan tactically earlier in the week; we wanted the guys to get out there and work up a good sweat."
Blasi provided the most humorous moment of all during the team press conferences. He was asked about the team's goalie situation and who would be starting today.
Miami has two outstanding goalies who rotated the entire season. Cody Reichard, a Hobey Baker finalist, was pulled during the RedHawks CCHA playoff semifinal loss to Michigan. He was replaced by Connor Knapp, another top rate Miami goalie.
So, who was going to start Saturday?, Blasi was asked.
"We're going to have a staff meeting here in a couple hours," Blasi deadpanned. "It has been a situation where we are electing a pope. If you see smoke coming out of the Marriott, we've made our decision."
More seriously, Blasi said Miami is in the enviable position of having two number one goalies. "They have both played well all year," he said.
Cole on Miami
Not to be outdone, Alabama-Huntsville coach Danton Cole provided this light moment.
What concerns did Cole have concerning Miami?
"Other than their goaltender, their defense, their forwards, their power play, their scoring and their talent level, not a whole lot," Cole said.
Cole did go on to say how much he respected the Miami program. "They are a complete hockey team and fun to watch," Cole said. "When they are on, I try and DVR the games and catch them later on in the week."
In preparing for the game, Cole said the focus for the Chargers was on controlling the things they could control.
"We concern ourselves with how we play and what we can take care of," Cole reported. "We are going to play Charger hockey and get after it, and be confident in that way. With (goalie Cameron Talbot) kicking back there, we will see what happens."