INCH College Hockey Extra

What does it take to succeed in playoff overtime hockey? Two teams that worked five overtimes, Yale and Union, share their recipe for success.

Updated: March 9, 2006, 2:08 PM ET
By Inside College Hockey | Special to

The first weekend of conference tournament action in college hockey provided a welcome reminder of one of the joys of springtime: Playoff hockey headed to overtime.

In fact, there were five overtimes in the second game of the Union-Yale series, the longest game in college hockey history. It's unlikely we'll see another game of that length this year, but from here on out, every contest will have a winner, regardless of how long it takes to decide the outcome.

The participants in last Saturday's marathon had a keen sense of what contributes to success in overtime playoff hockey.

"After the first couple of overtimes, there's nothing you can do but just start joking around, and try to have fun out there, because that's what the game is about," Union co-captain Scott Seney told the Schenectady Daily Gazette. "It's good to see in the locker room that the guys could still be loose and have fun. "When you go into the third period and the first overtime, there's a lot of nervous energy. Everyone's excited, but you're still gripping the sticks tight. By the end, it was organized pond hockey, almost. Everyone was just having fun and not trying to make a mistake."

Yale goaltender Alec Richards turned aside 57 shots from Seney and his teammates, earning INCH Player of the Week honors.

"Without Alec Richards," Yale forward David Meckler told Research on Ice, "there's no way we would have won this game."

Meckler played a big role as well, scoring the game-winning goal while shorthanded early in the fifth overtime. His stick is already on its way to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

Conditioning. Goaltending. Attention to detail. And a dose of puck luck.

"I don't think anyone believed it was over. It didn't hit me until Monday morning," Union head coach Nate Leaman told the Bangor Daily News. "We were on the power play, and it was a broken play. I think the puck deflected off one of the referees [to a Yale player]. It was one of those things. We felt we were going to win the game."

In short, it's the same equation that leads to success over the course of the regular season. That's why teams like Wisconsin, Miami and Minnesota -- the elite in college hockey almost all year -- are best suited for overtime success.

Unlike a shootout -- which, the NHL has proven, would be a great addition to regular-season college hockey games -- overtimes usually give a fairly accurate representation of who is the better team. A bounce here or there can lead to an upset -- indeed, Yale was the 10th seed in the ECACHL tournament to Union's seventh -- but the favorites have earned that status over the course of the season. That doesn't change in extra time.

They might not last five overtimes, but you can expect at least a few of those top teams to face overtime situations in the coming weeks.

Spoil sports
While the regular-season champions are, deservedly, the favorites in each conference tournament, a number of teams are poised for upsets. We'll pick one from each league:

Atlantic Hockey: Sacred Heart is 8-2-1 in its last 11 and could become the fourth Atlantic Hockey team in as many years to represent the league in the NCAAs.

Central Collegiate Hockey Association: There's very little in their second-half play to suggest it, but it still wouldn't be a surprise for Michigan's talent to turn it on and take home the Mason Cup.

College Hockey America: Bemidji State swept Alabama-Huntsville last weekend, securing the important second seed in the CHA. The Beavers will make a second straight NCAA appearance if they win two games this weekend.

ECAC Hockey League: Arguably the league's best forward (T.J. Trevelyan) and defenseman (Mike Madill) make St. Lawrence a dangerous fifth seed.

Hockey East: The only team to beat BU or Maine in the last six weeks was New Hampshire, which heads into the tournament on a winning note.

Western Collegiate Hockey Association: There are reasons Wisconsin was the nation's best team for the first three and a half months. Last weekend's sweep of St. Cloud State showed that the Badgers may have recaptured their magic.

Foster's gone
Alex Foster, who led Bowling Green in scoring as a sophomore, has decided to leave school and sign a professional contract.

Foster had 11 goals and 40 assists (51 points) in 38 games as a sophomore for the Falcons, whose season ended last weekend with two losses at Nebraska-Omaha. Foster, the son of former NHLer Dwight Foster, will sign a two-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs that will include the maximum signing bonus allowed under the NHL collective bargaining agreement, approximately $170,000.

"When I came to BG, the situation I was put in allowed me to develop me into the player I am now," Foster said in a statement released by the school. "The coaching staff allowed me to play in all situations, five-on-five, penalty kill and power play. Bowling Green, the city and coaches, were awesome. I would not have changed a thing my last two years."

"Alex has been a tremendous player for us the last two years," said BGSU head coach Scott Paluch. "He is a major loss to our program, but it is great to see Alex continue his dream. We wish him nothing but the best."

Foster's departure leaves his classmate, Jonathan Matsumoto, as Bowling Green's top returning scorer, provided that he returns for his junior season.

Weekend watch
Game we'd pay to watch in person
Vermont at Boston College
Thursday, Friday and, if necessary, Saturday
Neither team has played particularly well in the last month, but that's what makes this series the most compelling. That and the presence of Cory Schneider (BC) and Joe Fallon (UVM), two of the nation's best goaltenders who are looking for their first real taste of postseason success.
Games we'd pay to watch on satellite
Ferris State at Michigan
Friday, 7:30 p.m., FOX Sports Net
Just two weeks ago, Ferris State spoiled Michigan's Senior Night with a third period come-from-behind win, leading to a Jim Mora-like postgame tirade from Red Berenson. The Wolverines, with that memory and the looming possibility of missing the NCAA Tournament, will definitely be motivated, but their experience and goaltending are still question marks.
Future watch
Bobby Goepfert, a sixth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2002, may have been a forgotten man in the Pens' goaltending depth chart after he sat out last season as an NCAA transfer. The former Providence goalie has reemerged as a promising prospect at St. Cloud State, however, carrying the Huskies to a surprising sixth-place finish in the WCHA.
Fries at the bottom of the bag
• WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod was at Mariucci Arena Friday to present the MacNaughton Cup, emblematic of the league's regular-season championship, to Minnesota in a brief postgame ceremony. But Gopher captain Gino Guyer quickly accepted the trophy and set it down, much like an NHL captain would do after winning a conference playoff title. Said Guyer following the game, "That's not the one we want."

• Michigan defenseman Jack Johnson was one of six CCHA freshmen named to the league's All-Rookie team this week. No surprise there. It was somewhat of a shock, however, that the Carolina Hurricanes' prospect wasn't among the three finalists for CCHA Rookie of the Year. Conference coaches, who vote on the league honors, chose Notre Dame forward Erik Condra, Michigan State goaltender Jeff Lerg and Miami goalie Jeff Zatkoff as the top three candidates for the award. Johnson, who scored 30 points in 33 games, is among the finalists for the league's top offensive defenseman.

• It wasn't a banner weekend for Alabama-Huntsville as the Chargers were swept by Bemidji State and dropped from first to third in the College Hockey America standings in less than 48 hours. One bright spot, however, was a pair of milestones reached by senior defenseman Jeremy Schreiber, who established a pair of league records for career points (85) and assists (64) by a defenseman with his five-assist effort in the series.

• We've gotta stop meeting like this -- defending ECACHL tournament champion Cornell plays its first postseason contests this weekend as the Big Red welcomes Clarkson to Lynah Rink for a best-of-three, second-round series. It's the third year in a row that the two teams have met in Ithaca for the second round of the league playoffs. Clarkson upset the hosts in a three-game series in 2004.

• Slumping Vermont embarks on its inaugural Hockey East playoff experience by traveling to Boston for a best-of-three, first-round series against similarly wobbly Boston College, but the Catamounts will have the highest-scoring Green Mountain State native in school history in tow. Senior forward Brady Leisenring, a Stowe product, picked up his 117th career point with an assist in a loss to UMass Lowell Saturday to pass John LeClair -- the pride of St. Albans, Vt. -- for the honor.