History in the making as Big Red men's hockey heads west for NCAA regional round

March 21, 2012 by Mark H. Anbinder

The last time Cornell University and the University of Michigan met on the ice, fifteen years ago, they skated to a 3-3 tie. The last time they met in postseason play, 21 years ago, the Big Red stunned the home crowd in Ann Arbor by winning the first of a best-of-three NCAA regional series. This Friday night, the teams meet in an NCAA regional semifinal in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Cornell netminder Andy Iles. 14850 Photo.Cornell netminder Andy Iles. 14850 Photo.Longtime fans who make up part of the rowdy crowd at Michigan's Yost Ice Arena credit the traveling Cornell fans from that 1991 tournament meeting with teaching them much of that rowdiness -- the traditional taunts and jeers that make Cornell's Lynah Rink one of the most notoriously difficult road-trip venues in all of college sports.

This Friday's meeting of Red and Blue could also be a preview of a future match-up between the two teams that's being considered for a holiday weekend at a neutral site. Cornell and longtime rival Boston University have played a series of Thanksgiving weekend games at New York City's storied Madison Square Garden, selling out the arena each time. 

Cornell edged into the NCAA tournament, their third time in four years and the 19th appearance in the program's history, on the strength of last Saturday afternoon's shut-out win over Colgate in the ECAC Hockey Tournament third-place game in Atlantic City. Despite Friday night's disappointing loss to Harvard, the consolation win Saturday left Cornell tied for twelfth in the national pairwise rankings that help determine NCAA tournament seedings.

The winner of the Cornell-Michigan semifinal will advance to Saturday's regional final, against the winner of the earlier semifinal, between Denver and Ferris State. The regional winner will advance to the NCAA Frozen Four tournament, to be held at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa in two weeks.

Michigan faces North Dakota in the 2011 Frozen Four in St. Paul. 14850 Photo.Michigan faces North Dakota in the 2011 Frozen Four in St. Paul. 14850 Photo.Michigan, too, came to the regionals through the back door, after falling to Western Michigan in Saturday's CCHA Tournament championship game. The Wolverines had a seven-game winless streak through November and December, including a 6-3 loss to the Union Dutchmen squad that eventually won last weekend's ECAC championship, before going 17-4-2 for the rest of the season. Last season, Michigan advanced to the national title game against Minnesota-Duluth before falling in overtime.

The Big Red comes into the weekend with an 18-8-7 overall record, to Michigan's 24-12-4 record. Cornell's semifinal game will be broadcast on ESPNU and can be watched online at ESPN3.com. Gametime is 8pm CDT, or 9pm EDT, at Green Bay's Resch Center. The final, also on ESPNU and ESPN3.com, will be at 8pm CDT Saturday. Union College, seeded third overall in the NCAA tournament, faces Michigan State at 3pm EDT Friday in Bridgeport, Connecticut.


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