College hockey comes to A-town

University of Michigan and Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey teams battle it out in NCAA Regional Final

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The Michigan Ice Hockey team celebrating their win. courtesy of instagram.com/ncaaicehockey

For being a city located in northeast Pennsylvania, Allentown sure has a lot of UMich fans. 

“It was a great opportunity to socialize with other schools and meet new people.”

Max Pinilis ’22

The energy at and around the PPL Center was electric long before the 6:30 p.m. puck drop. As anticipated, traffic was jammed well up Hamilton Street as families anxiously waited to snag a parking spot in the nearby garage. Although a few people were spotted touting Quinnipiac sweatshirts, they were ultimately drowned out by the flood of blue and maize swallowing up the street. The bright University of Michigan colors added a splash of vibrance to the otherwise dreary Sunday evening. Fans young and old were clearly thrilled to see the Michigan Wolverines take on the Quinnipiac Bobcats in the NCAA Regional Ice Hockey Championship.   

After the ice was cleared, the teams lined up for the faceoff eager to play for a spot in the Frozen Four. The Wolverines took no time breaking in the mesh of Quinnipiac’s net. With their starting five on the ice and barely half a minute in the legs, Nolan Moyles immediately won the hearts and voices of the maize and blue clad crowd. Max Pinilis ‘22 who was in the crowd described that “People were cheering in the aisles, as they were still sitting down, popcorn was spilled, drinks were spilled, it was a great time.” 

After this strong start moved the puck from zone to zone, taking a number of shots that were capably handled by the young keepers of both teams, Wolverine Erik Portillo and Bobcat Yaniv Perets. However, the Wolverines weathered the storm of Bobcat shots and transitioned to offense with five minutes left in the first period. 

Once the Wolverines entered the Bobcat zone, Jacob Truscott fired a shot off at Perets, resulting in a save. Just five seconds later, Jimmy Lambert took another shot, putting the Wolverines up 2-0 going into the second period.

The game was unfolding to be a typical struggle between a one and a two seed. The Bobcats were putting up a hard fight, but didn’t have the finishing ability of a team that has advanced to the Frozen Four 25 times in their program history. The Bobcats still had an opportunity to win, but the two-goal difference was going to be far more challenging. At the helm of this Wolverine team was Head Coach Mel Pearson. While he has only coached the team for five years, he has already earned his keep. In his very first season as coach, he won a berth to the Frozen Four. Now, as he returned to the quarterfinals he had one goal—maintain the lead. 

The Wolverines were given the opportunity to extend this lead seven minutes into the second period. Michael Lombardi was called for hooking and the two minute penalty was exacted. In the first minute of the powerplay, Thomas Bordeleau fired one off to extend the lead to 3-0. After the power play, the second period continued according to the game plan, with the Wolverines widening the margin to 4-0.

Perets had made an admirable effort against the Wolverine offense with 19 saves; however, going into the third period the Bobcats needed a change. They put in graduate student Dylan St. Cyr, a strong defensive choice, since the Bobcats were able to go on a 3-0 run in the first seventeen minutes of the period. The Wolverines felt their hard earned lead crumbling and the pressure mounting. In the words of Miracle on Ice, it was time for the legs to feed the Wolverines. The team put on an astonishing offensive performance in the final three minutes, drilling three shots into the back of the net, and hammering the nail into the Bobcats’ coffin.

The event was an electric experience in Muhlenberg’s backyard. For the students that got to go there was a conglomeration of all the schools in the valley. According to Pinilis, “It was a great opportunity to socialize with other schools and meet new people.”

With this electric win, the Wolverines broke the NCAA record for most Frozen Four berths of all time. The program has made it 26 times to the Frozen Four, and on Apr. 7 they will face off against the University of Denver at TD Garden in Boston.

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