You were watching what Saturday night?
Something happened in the sports world Saturday, April 11, 2009 that may never have happened before and may never again. Two college national championships in Division I were awarded within five minutes of each other. Both the men's hockey and the women's bowling seasons ended just after 10 P.M. Saturday night with one finale showcasing the greatest comeback in history and the other cementing a decade of domination.
Although I have written hundreds of articles about college hockey, I have never once written on women's college bowling and certainly never both in the same breath, but what I witnessed via ESPN April 11 is something that begs to be recognized if for nothing more than its unique oddity.
Terriers nip Miami-Ohio in thrilling ice war
At exactly 10:06 P.M. April 11 Boston University knotted an overtime winner that capped one of the most heart-stopping college hockey games in my recent memory. With less than a minute left in the game it appeared the No. 4 seeded Miami-Ohio Redhawks were going to ride the lightning into a certain, yet improbable, title.
After not even qualifying for the Central Collegiate Hockey Association semi-final in Detroit, Miami was let into the the NCAA tournament on the strength of their regular season, albeit one of the last teams into the 16-team field. They knocked off West Regional No. 1 Denver 4-2 in the first round, rode two first-period goals to a win over Minnesota-Duluth in Minneapolis and peaked in a 4-1 breezer over fellow four-seed Bemidji State to face Boston in the final.
Boston University conversely cruised to a 27-6-4 regular season record, losing just one game out of conference. They claimed trophies in the Icebreaker Tournament, the Denver Cup, the Beanpot and won the Hockey East regular season and conference titles.
Still after thumping Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA tourney, the Terriers struggled against New Hampshire before Jason Lawrence broke a tie with 15 seconds left to move Boston onto the Frozen Four in Washington D.C.
With less than seven minutes left in the semi-final Boston found themselves down 4-3 against an overachieving Vermont team. Their goalie Kieran Millan was off his game allowing two soft goals. The broadcasters even commented that if they were Vermont they would thrown any shot they could get on the rattled Millan.
But championship teams play up to that caliber when they have to and this Terrier team wasn't about to roll over and play dead. Chris Higgins struck with 6:54 left and just over a minute later Colin Wilson slammed in the game-winner.
But nobody saw this coming. With more than three and a half minutes to go Boston was down 3-1 and pulled Millan for the extra skater. Desperation time. The door was wide open for Miami to slam shut with an empty netter. It never came.
Terrier Zach Cohen sent home a rebound with 59 seconds left and Nick Bonino scored 42 seconds later to tie the game at 3-3. The Terriers had fought back again to force overtime.
It was inevitable at that point. Colby Cohen won the title 11:47 in overtime and Boston had its fifth title.
From Destiny to Dynasty - Husker rollers claim third title
While drama was going on in the rink in D.C., the Nebraska Cornhusker women were en route to hardware in Canton, Michigan. At 10:11 P.M. Nebraska turned away Central Missouri State again 4-1 achieving an unprecedented third championship in six years. Nebraska claimed titles in 2004 and 2005 also against Central Missouri State.
Nebraska cruised to the No.1 seed after day one of the finals topping the No. 2 seed by more than 300 pins. Central Missouri State ended day one the No. 6 seed. Both teams found themselves on a similar path to the title as both fell into the elimination bracket early in the tournament. Nebraska won their first match but fell to Fairleigh-Dickinson putting them behind the 8-ball. But they fought back beating New Jersey City and Delaware State twice clawing back into the top spot.
Central Missouri knocked off defending champ Maryland - Eastern Shore in the first match but fell into the elimination bracket by losing to Delaware State. They swept Vanderbilt 4-0 and fought back twice to overcome Fairleigh-Dickinson only to face the Huskers again in the championship.
Nebraska took the first game in the best of seven, but the Jennies tied the match. Nebraska however rattled off the next three wins by 33, 24 and 56 pins respectively.
The overtime made history on many levels
It was Boston's ability to fight back and force overtime and Central Missouri's one win that allowed the near-simultaneous phenomenon. I remember watching one event on ESPN and the other on ESPN2 and making the mental note. Has this ever happened? Will it again? Worth noting none the less and one of the simple little things in sports that I'll not soon forget.
Sport never ceases to amaze. And while we all watch the spectacle that is college football every Saturday and sit glued to the action of March Madness it is in the Frozen Four in D.C. and the hardwood floor of Canton, Michigan that champions were made. The teams don't play the same sport and will likely never meet one another, but yet they will be forever linked by the memory of April 11, 2009.